Identifying core competencies for students of a Vocational Education and Training (VET) Programme in electrical and mechanical engineering in Hong Kong

Wai Wing KWAN

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The rapid development of technology and globalization are the two driving forces of 21st century society; this development has greatly impacted upon the educational system because the significance of vocational education and training (VET) has a pendulum effect on the academic system. It swings from the end of the academic system towards the VET; the key attribute of VET education is to equip students with the capability for their future career development. In order to prepare electrical and mechanical (E&M) engineering graduates with the competencies they require to work in the 21 st century, a holistic and deep understanding of the development of core competencies for students working in the E&M industry is crucial because it enables the maintenance of the quality of the VET system to make it more appropriate and effective. The objective of this study was to identify the core competencies for students who will work in the E&M industry in Hong Kong and also to determine the adequacy of the programme in delivering core competencies from the students’ perspective. A mixed methods research design that included a quantitative approach and a qualitative approach was applied. In this study, the quantitative design was the dominant method used. A self-report questionnaire of 35 Likert-type items was distributed to collect data from 353 students in a final year cohort of higher diploma (HD) students studying Electrical Engineering at three different campuses. The questionnaire included two sub-scales that assessed the importance of as well as the adequacy in delivering core competencies. A qualitative approach was used as a supplement to the quantitative results and included three focus group interviews of seven to nine students from the campuses of Chai Wan, Haking Wong and Tsing Yi. A Rasch rating scale model revealed that both subscales fit the model well; the reliability of the scales was good and no differential item functioning was detected by students from three different campuses. The results highlighted the importance of core competencies for students who will work in the E&M industry in the 21st century and the adequacy of the HD programme at delivering these core competencies. The findings suggested that almost all core competencies listed in the questionnaire were important and indicated that the HD programme had properly delivered most of the core competencies being explored in this study. Discussions based on these findings were conducted to determine the relationship between core competencies and adequacy in delivering the HD programme to develop short-term implications for how the programme administrator should address the core competencies and strategically deliver them to students. In the end, long-term suggestions regarding how to apply this study to improve the quality of the VET system were made. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016



  • Electrical engineering -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Hong Kong
  • Mechanical engineering -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Hong Kong
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ed.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2016