6 Lessons from Borneo

By John Peterson

Being part of a community of any kind can be a wonderful experience. Discovering a global community and being instantly welcomed in from the cold is on a whole different level.

This is what I experienced last week when I attended the World Technical Global Vocation Education and Training (TVET) Conference for 2015 as a Keynote Speaker at the Borneo Convention Centre in Malaysia.

There were 700 attendees from 28 Countries, 70 guest speakers, 16 keynote speakers, and another 1,000 attending the workforce skills expo in the foyer over three magnificent days.


The Technical Global Vocation Education and Training (TVET) industry is as big as they come. TVET is about skills-based education and training to improve the student/person’s ability to get a job, or to keep increasing their qualifications so they can move into higher paying jobs and continually progress their career. Learn how to become a builder, carpenter, chef, computer programmer, hairdresser, garment maker or welder -the list of career opportunities enabled through TVET is endless. For educators, trainers and HR professionals the peak body International Vocational Education and Training Association (IVETA) is well worth checking out at www.iveta.org


Depending on how you look at it, vocational education is arguably much more valuable and practical than higher education (or university). You learn a skill, become qualified, and immediately start getting paid to put that qualification to work. What you learn is often a vitally important skill to your country and your country’s ability to meet its workforce, infrastructure, and economic requirements.

Skilled workers are in demand world-wide. A 6G Qualified Welder can earn between $60,000 – $130,000 USD immediately upon becoming qualified, regardless of language barriers – making a skills-based qualification more valuable to anyone wanting a high quality income, whilst living and working in exotic locations around the globe.

A skills-based education is also good for your country. You can earn your qualifications faster, making you an income earner and tax payer far sooner than if you spendt years at university to become degree qualified.

TVET programs are becoming more entrepreneurial and more innovative. Emerging countries are innovating, creating residential courses which produce highly skilled workers sooner, fast tracking higher income earnings and career opportunities for students much faster than the traditional university route.


Very few parents want their kids to learn a skill (i.e. obtain a vocational qualification) and tend to instead put pressure on their children to go to university. Although well-meaning at heart, these parents are just as concerned about the social status of being able to report to peer groups that their child is “going to become a doctor or lawyer, or obtain some other socially acceptable university degree”, that they have lost sight of allowing their child to discover for themselves what their dream is.

It’s perfectly fine to pursue a higher education if you have a passion in a particular area. If you don’t however, then the pressure of your parents all over you for somewhere between 10-15 years as they prepare you for “college” or “university” may lead to a level of life long resentment between parents and their children.

Vocational Education needs to become more socially acceptable so that students and parents recognise the direct and indirect benefits a vocational career can bring.


Parents who believe their child will be better off with a degree behind them may be way off base. Research suggests that as little as 30% of university graduates end up employed in their vocation of choice. Moreover, a degree doesn’t necessarily offer the student practical skills for gainful employment. Also, not all universities are adapting quickly enough to offer practical preparation to their students after they complete their qualifications.


As many as 70% of university courses world-wide are educating students in jobs that are forecast to be non-existent by the time the student has graduated. The higher education world is way behind in many technical related industries, often teaching outdated theory and practical applications with elements that have already progressed in the real world beyond what is being taught. The rate of evolution and pace of change has become something we can no longer comprehend, let alone keep up with.


It’s quite amazing how many high school and college drop outs went on to become business masters and significant leaders, influencing our lives through their unqualified endeavours. In most cases they “worked” at a trade or learned a skill which led them to their final “calling,” bringing them success and prosperity. Some examples include;

  • Walt Disney dropped out of high school at 16, joined the Red Cross, and left for Europe.
  • President Abraham Lincoln left school at 12 to help on his family farm.
  • David Karp, inventor of Tumblr, dropped out of high school at 14 to focus on computers.
  • Thomas Edison – dropped out of high school and was home schooled by his mother, who was a teacher herself.
  • Benjamin Franklin left school at 10.
  • John D Rockefeller, America’s first billionaire, dropped out just before high school graduation.
  • Richard Branson dropped out at 16.

There are some statistics that suggest the technical skills option has a clearer pathway to one day potentially mastering a business. For example;

  • A carpenter becomes a builder, and grows a large building company
  • An electrician becomes advanced in solar technologies and runs a large solar company that creates green energy for the world to benefit from
  • A welder becomes a mining services sub-contractor, and emerges with their own mining consulting company
  • A pastry chef becomes a restaurant owner, and expands into owning and operating a five star hotel or resort.


Getting qualified in anything is better than nothing. Continuing your education one way or another is a good thing. Learning some practical skills can make you employable all over the world, and doing what you love will most likely result in you doing it so well that people will pay you handsomely to continue doing it.

Whatever your dream, don’t give up on it. Find your passion, then develop a hunger for learning and a thirst for knowledge. I wish you a life of prosperity, a learned journey based on you obtaining great skills and earning great experiences of life, love, friendships, career and rewards.

Click here for a short video of my wonderful TVET experience in Borneo:

WATCH HERE -“Recap: World TVET Conference 2015 (with John Peterson)

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