Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vocational Planning Policy in Science and Technology

TÜBİTAK Science, Technology and Innovation Policies Directorate’s 2011-2016 Science and Technology Human Resources Strategy and Action Plan (STHRSA) covers the strategies that would be followed in order to foster the competencies and number of Human Resources in Science and Technology (HRST). Despite fostering of HRST includes many factors, for instance, future expectations of people, gross expenditure in research and development, etc., this essay focuses only on the vocational planning aspects of the HRST fostering process.

Key words: Vocational Planning, Science and Technology

1. Introduction
The importance of human capital and the division of labour are studied in depth by many scholars. In his “Intellectual Origins of Modern Economic Growth” Joel Mokyr describes the intellectual roots of Industrial Revolution (IR), and the impact of “Enlightenment” to the eighteenth century technology . Throughout the IR, and before it, the knowledge accumulation in Europe, with the aid of social and economic changes, led to the innovation of new technologies. In response, technology started to increase the amount of both prescriptive and propositional knowledge with apprenticeship, experimentation, emergence of colleges and universities and many other factors. The access to (natural) resources, institutions of a country and the citizens’ perception of value are also known to have impact on the economic growth of one country .

As a result of the division of labour “specialization” became more important in the second industrial innovation, with the introduction of mass production method and later the lean production method in automotive industry . The studies on the origins and effects of technology and innovation in economic growth show a high correlation among the economic growth and the expenditure in R&D, scientific publications and patents. From these findings, for a sustainable economic growth, the investment in the human capital is the key factor.

In order to accumulate knowledge and improve human capital in Turkey, the strategies of Science and Technology Human Resources Strategy and Action Plan must be applied by public institutions in coordination with private sector.

2. Science and Technology Human Resources Strategy and Action Plan

With the decision numbered 2007/201 taken at the sixteenth meeting of Supreme Council of Science and Technology (SCST) held on 20 November 2007, the Science and Technology Human Resources Strategy and Action Plan is decided to be prepared under the responsibility of Ministry of Finance (MB), Institution of Higher Education (YÖK), Ministry of National Education (MEB), State Planning Department (DPT), Ministry of Labour and Social Security (ÇSGB), and TÜBİTAK. The 2007/201 numbered decision is as follows: “Under the coordination of TÜBİTAK, in order to increase the number of Research and Development (R&D) personnel and to foster the R&D personnel’s distribution among the occupations and sectors, it is decided to start to the preparation of Science and Technology Human Resources Strategy and Action Plan”.
Due to this decision, the STHRSA is prepared on December 2010. The STHRSA includes five main aims and nineteen strategies in total. The first aim and its strategies are summarized and discussed below.

“Aim 1: Increasing the Number of and Fostering the Distribution of Science and Technology Human Resources”. The figure below shows that between the years 2001 and 2008, the tendency of students in Turkey to science and engineering departments shows a decline.

Why there is a decline in the trend? What are the social and economic reasons behind this decline? What is the perception of “value” of students in Turkey? Many questions emerge related to this decline. Hence, the following strategies of “Aim 1” may be used to both describe this decline and ways to improve it.

In order to increase this declining ratio, the following six fundamental strategies are defined:
“Strategy 1.1: Guidance of Teens to R&D Areas”,
“Strategy 1.2: Improvement of Career Opportunities and Incomes”,
“Strategy 1.3: Designing Programs to Educate HRST According to the Needs of Private Sector”,
“Strategy 1.4: Increasing the Employment of Technical and Equivalent Personnel”,
“Strategy 1.5: Educating the HRST According to Turkey’s Priority Areas”,
and finally
“Strategy 1.6: Dissemination of Science and Technology Culture in Society”.

Guidance of teens to R&D areas, the first strategy, is affected by many factors, i.e. the “value” assigned to science and technology related occupations as a prestigious career, economic expectations, economic background of families, and a successful vocational guidance service.

The application of second strategy is directly related with the performance of public institutions and private sector. Government incentives which support the private sectors with reduction in taxes, with R&D funds, and venture capital support of entrepreneurs are some of the vital inputs, but since the improvement of incomes directly related with the added value of the output of public and private sector, the utilization, marketing and sales support of the generated output have major importance.

Medium and long term labour projections of the private sector are important for the application of third strategy. This projection study must be performed in coordination with ÇSGB and The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB).

For the fourth strategy MEB, ÇSGB and TOBB has been developing projects to attract the teens to vocation high schools and ways to improve the quality of education at these schools, with projects as “Specialized Occupation Acquisition Project (UMEM)” and “Vocational High School Project (MLMM)” .

Fifth strategy is a pre-condition strategy for the application of other strategies, since without defining and focusing on the priority areas of Turkey, the effort spent on other strategies will have weak impacts. The OECD Science, Technology and Industry (STI) Outlook 2010 report highlights these priority areas. Out of 12 main national priorities, Turkey defined 8 strategic STI policy priority areas, while keeping the “Children, Education and Creativity” area out.

“Economic expectations” of people is one of many other factors that affect the selection of an occupation. Besides this fact, it is also known that people are inclined to select an occupation with lesser income due to its prestige in their own society. Hence, in order to apply the sixth strategy, the perception of citizens, especially the teens, of Turkey towards the occupations in Science and Technology needs to be shaped with the usage of role models and media, especially the social media which is much more popular among the teens rather than the TV and published media.

The successful applications of the mentioned six strategies are interdependent, and hence needs to be developed in an incremental fashion and these applications need to be controlled in short period of times in order to evaluate their success and identify any emerging risks.

The first, third and fourth strategies have a common factor, the vocational guidance, which is a hidden but crucial tool to be used to create an attraction for teens to Science and Technology related high school and university departments. This commonality shows the importance of the vocational guidance.

3. Vocational Guidance

Selecting an occupation is one of the most important decisions in life, which directly affects the income, job performance and happiness. People are tended to select different occupations due to their own personalities, expectations, values and interests. Furthermore, a person does not necessarily continue in the same occupation throughout his/her life, “career concerns occur throughout one’s life” (Sharf, 2006).

Factors that shape a person’s vocational choices are studied in the twentieth century in detail. Different theories are proposed by psychologists to explain the reasons behind this selection process, which can be grouped under three categories: “Trait and Type Theories”, “Life-Span Theory”, “Special Focus Theories” .
Despite different theories focuses on different aspects of human psychology, all the mentioned theories underline the importance of “self-understanding”, “obtaining knowledge about the world of work”, and the integration of these two explorative processes.

The aim of the “self-understanding” period is to reveal the traits of a person, which are aptitudes, achievements, interests, values and personality. These traits are believed to affect a person’s decision of an occupation. Hence different types of inventories, tests and questionnaires are developed to help counsellors to gain a client’s self-understanding. “A Counsellor’s Guide to Career Assessment Instruments” presents reviews of most of these instruments (Kapes & Whitfield, 2001). One important point is to use most recent instruments which are adjusted to Turkish culture .

During the process of “obtaining knowledge about the world of work”, the information about the occupations and the labour market is important.
There are different sources to obtain occupational information. These sources include booklets, encyclopaedias, books on occupations, information available in videos, and the Web.

A more comprehensive approach is the organization of occupational information via classification systems. The International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO) of International Labour Organization is one of the main international classifications used today, namely ISCO-08 . ISCO-08 includes 672 occupational groups. In Turkey, Turkish Labour Institution (İşKur) is responsible from the classification of occupations. Information about more than 4700 occupations are interviewed and registered to the İşKur occupation database .

After assessing a client’s traits and providing the client the information about the occupations, the main responsibility of a counsellor is to guide the client to the occupations that the client will benefit most .

These three main processes should be repeated throughout a client’s career. Despite the traits of a client is discussed to not to change, since the emergence of new occupations or the change in the occupations due to technological and social changes, the clients should keep their occupational information up-to-date.

4. Vocational Planning Policy in Science and Technology

In order to achieve the strategies of first aim of STHRSA document, a policy that integrates the practices of public institutions and the “world of work” is necessary.

A comprehensive study which reveals the needs of private sectors shall be performed, to achieve the strategy 1.3. By using the information technologies, a questionnaire shall be prepared by government institutions and shall be filled by private sector firms operating in Science & Technology areas, to obtain an understanding of the needs of private sector .

After the occupational needs of private sector are revealed, a second study which identifies the traits and factors needed for these occupations shall be performed. Institution for Occupational Proficiency (MYK) focuses on the occupations other than medicine, engineering and architecture . So another department of ÇSGB or institution should focus to define the standards needed by the Science and Technology related occupations. The work conditions, traits needed, trainings needed, benefits provided, and career path shall be covered by these standards.

As the third step, the type of education needed by these defined occupations shall be defined. The level of education – high school or university –, duration, apprenticeship or internship requirements, the minimum courses to be covered by these trainings should also be clarified.

On the one hand, the inventories, tests and questionnaires shall be applied to teens in order to reveal their profiles; what are their interests, values, skills. This study should be directed by MEB in coordination with Psychological Consulting and Guidance association.

On the other hand, by using the Information Technologies, the defined occupations, their “world of work” information shall be in the reach of teens, preferably over the Web. Teens shall be informed about the importance of getting information about the occupations. Using the social media for this purpose is crucial due to the fact that teens prefer social media web sites other the TV, radio or published media.

As the last step, the integration of the Science & Technologies related occupations and teens should be done, by again, using the specific Information Technology applications.

When the skills needed by the private sector in the Science & Technology are successfully matched with the teens who informed with the “world of work” information, the mentioned strategies of first aim of STHRSA should be achieved in a sustainable manner.

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