Vocational education prepares learners for certain careers or professions, which are traditionally non-academic and directly related to a trade, occupation or 'vocation' in which the learner participates.
Vocational education is in most cases a form of secondary or post-secondary education. In some cases, vocational education can contribute towards a tertiary education at a university as academic credit however, it is rarely considered in its own form to fall under the traditional defintion of a higher education.
Up until the end of the twentieth century, vocational education focused on trades, for example building, agriculture and crafts, and was therefore associated with the activities of lower social classes. As a consequence, it has attracted a level of stigma.
However, as the labour market becomes more specialised and economies are demanding more skills, governments and business are increasingly investing in the future of vocational education through publicy funded training organisations and subsidised apprenticeship or traineeship initiatives for businesses.
Vocational education has diversified over the last century and now exists in industries such as retail, tourism, IT, funeral services and cosmetics.
Vocational education is related to the age-old apprenticeship system of learning.