Training innovations for quality improvements | Sunday Observer
Technical and Vocational Education

Training innovations for quality improvements

11 April, 2021

Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) has become a priority in the global development agenda as it addresses unemployment issues, productivity in employment and skill shortages experienced in many countries.

Sri Lanka also has given equal if not higher prominence to the TVET system in the country and many programs have been launched in the past few decades to develop quality framework of the TVET.

Formal TVET, as we know of it today, had its beginnings in 1893 when the first Technical College was established at Maradana to train skilled workers needed for the development of physical infrastructure such as laying of railway lines and construction of roads.

The period after independence (1948) kindled a renewed interest in the development of skills required for achieving the development objectives of a newly emergent nation.

Accordingly, action had been taken to establish the Hardy Technical College, Ampara, Ceylon German Technical Training College, Katubedda and a network of technical colleges, the National Apprentices and Industrial Training Authority and the Vocational Training Authority. In parallel, private and NGO sectors had established many training centres as well.

Different training

However, this expansion did not have a focus on quality and relevance. Therefore, from 1990, an attempt has been made to co-ordinate different training institutions to deliver training with quality and relevance according to a nationally agreed plan.

This was symbolised by the establishment of the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC), the regulatory body in TVET sector in 1990 and establishment of a separate ministry for the TVET in 1994.

These developments have led to establish the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) framework as the first south Asian country to establish a qualification framework. This qualification framework facilitates the qualification progression for entrants to TVET to have a vocational diplomas and degrees and it was made a reality by the establishing of nine Colleges of Technology and six University Colleges to conduct NVQ 5 & 6 National Diploma courses and the University of Vocational Technology (UNIVOTEC) to implement NVQ Level 7 degree programs.

In parallel, TVEC and TVET institutions have introduced following programs for skilling industry employees.


i. NVQ Level 3 & 4 Qualifications through Recognition of Prior Learning

ii. Flexible Modular Learning (FML) programs with 50 percent subsidy from the Skills Sector Development Program.

iii. Part Time Delivery of Diplomas by Colleges of Technology of the Department of Technical Education and Training and part time Degree programs by the UNIVOTEC

iv. Mature Candidate Route for Industry Employees to get NVQ Level 5 Equivalent Certificates


Now the TVET system is in place for skilling youth and industry employees. But, it has a challenge of achieving quality in training programs which will pave the way to attract more and more youth and industry employees to these skilling programs. The Ministry, TVEC and TVET institutions have launched many programs to face the challenge of quality improvements in the TVET system.

Quality Assurance

TVEC with the assistance of projects implemented from time to time have introduced following programs to ensure quality in TVET programs.

  •  Registration of Technical and Vocational Training centres
  •  Accreditation of courses to enable them to award NVQ qualifications

Registration of Technical and Vocational Training centres

According to the Tertiary and Vocational Education Act No 20 of 1990, it is a legal requirement to register all vocational training centres and courses with the Commission.

The TVEC registration is based on quality parameters such as course content and curricula, course duration, trainers’ qualifications and experience, training facilities, hygienic, health and safety factors. According to the current practices, for a training centre, TVEC registration is a must for its qualification to have local and international recognition.

When a Sri Lankan with a local vocational qualification qualifies for a job abroad, the Qualification Authority in that country inquires whether the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC), the Vocational Qualifications Authority of Sri Lanka, has recognised his / her qualification. It means that the foreign qualification authority check whether that person received the vocational qualification from a training centre registered with TVEC.

In the past, foreign qualification authorities sent written inquiries to TVEC to get information on TVEC registration but at present, they verify TVEC registration from TVEC website.

Many people have fallen in to trouble in employment issues when they have vocational qualification form a training centre without TVEC registration.

TVEC has repeatedly published warning notices each year soon after the release of the GCE (O/L) and the GCE (A/L) exam results to make public aware of needs registration of training centers by the TVEC

Course accreditation

Under the NVQ framework, courses are developed based on Competency Based Curricula {CBT curricula} which are delivered to meet the competencies relevant to a qualification specified in relevant National Competency Standards (NCS).

Course accreditation is the certification given to courses after proper assessment by a panel of experts to verify that each course is delivered to meet competencies specified in relevant NCS.

Here courses are assessed on curriculum, training facilities, trainer qualification, duration to suit entry qualification, courses and lesson delivery plans, OJT and continuous assessment of competencies. No course could award NVQ without getting TVEC accreditation.

Innovations for quality improvements

Registration and accreditation ensures the quality training and produce competent NVQ holders, but the public expect excellent training centres and expert performance from NVQ holders. Therefore, TVEC with the assistance of projects, piloted following innovations to improve the quality and competency level.

  •  Quality Management System
  •  Quality improvement System
  •  Skills Competitions
  •  Competition among training centers with excellence awards

Quality Management System and Quality Improvement System

With the introduction of NVQ Framework, TVEC with project assistance introduced a quality management system (QMS) with internal and externally quality audit to training centres for which TVEC has the mandate from the Tertiary and Vocational Education (Amendment) Act No 50 of 1999. With piloting of QMS for a few years, TVEC introduced a simplified QMS with nine processes listed below.

I. Ensure Availability of Training Equipment, materials and consumables

II. Maintain Safe and Conducive Learning Environment and Infrastructure

III. Ensure availability of Curricula and Learning Materials Available for all Courses

IV. Ensure appropriate and proper academic staff hired and staff requirements fulfilled

V. Students Affairs well managed and student enrolment criteria available

VI. Training Delivered as per Plan and training records maintained

VII. Timely Conduct of Continuous and Final Assessments, and issue certificates

VIII. Evaluate customer satisfaction by taking feedbacks from Students, Parents and Industry

IX. Ensure the Financial concerns and stability

QMS has been installed in about 250 training centres but it demanded further innovations. Therefore, TVEC with the assistance of projects and foreign consultants developed different quality concepts and introduced a quality culture training program for the staff which has been delivered at the University of Vocational Technology.

As Training centres considered QMS as difficult and hard work, Quality Improvement System (QIS) with star certification was introduced and launched with the label ‘Quality if Fun’. QIS has 15 steps and it start with kick off meeting which is done with lot of fun.

It has steps such as quality attitude, happy committee and critical friend which get high level of social attraction. It gives 3 star certification before QMS and that motivates the staff to work for QMS and beyond. Eventually, training centre could get 4 star and 5 star certification. TVEC and Skill Sector Development Programs (SSDP) monitor the implementation of QMS and QIS with annual targets. But quality is a difficult area as it is dependent on attitude, habits and culture.

Competition for expertise and excellence

Registration, Accreditation, QMS and QIS explained above push the training centres to achieve quality. In parallel, the Ministry responsible for Skills Development and Vocational Training and TVEC introduced competitions to pull the training centres to achieve the quality.

These programs are well geared to meet public aspirations as public expect expert performance from NVQ holders and excellence performance from Training centres.

Skills competition

Vocational training programs are developed and conducted to provide competencies required for employments. Here, competency means ability to work according to standards.

But, when the public wants technical services, they search for experts in the trade. For example, the public always goes to expert vehicle mechanics or expert hair dressers. This applies to other technical areas too. Therefore, competent people should be lead to expertise fast.

In 2012 and 2013, then Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skill Development with TVEC had nationwide skill competitions for 16 occupations in 2013and 24 occupations in 2014.

Competent people in occupation competed at the Skills Competition and best among competents won. Best among competent persons means experts. In preparation for Skill Competition, all participants get opportunities develop expertise. This is well matched with the ‘Dreyfus and Dreyfus’ model (1986) on beyond competency which explains dimensions of performance in 5 Stages from novice to expert.

Competition for excellence

Many quality measures have been introduced to training centres to achieve quality. These quality measures should be ordinary or habitual work in a training centre and they become excellence when they perform those ordinary work extraordinarily well.

In 2019, in line with International Youth Skill Day celebration, the Ministry and TVEC introduced a competition to identify training centres with excellence. This year, the ceremony for excellence awards to training centres will be held under the patronage of Prof. G. L. Peiris, Minister of Education and Dr. Seetha Arambepola, State Minister of Skills Development, Vocational Training, Research and Innovation on 05th April 2021 at BMICH.

It is hoped this program will contribute to the endeavours of training institutions to meet employment the aspiration of youth and the skills needs of the industry.