This paper proposes an inter-disciplinary approach for illuminating the cognitive schemas that can be targeted in vocational teacher education, and for designing appropriate learning experiences. The cognitive schemas are analysed in terms of the objects and instruments of three inter-related activity systems: vocational practice, vocational education learning settings and vocational teacher education. Using cultural historical activity theory, the cognitive schemas needed as instruments in vocational activity are derived from considerations of the objects of contemporary working practice. These instruments, in turn, are assumed to be the objects of vocational education preparing vocational learners for the realities of contemporary and future workplaces. Further, the teaching schemas (instruments) that vocational teachers need in vocational educational practice are suggested as an important object of teacher education, preparing teachers for the challenges of vocational education. The paper uses this analysis to argue that an important object of vocational teacher education learning experiences should be the kinds of declarative, specific procedural and metacognitive procedural knowledge that the teacher can, in turn, use in engaging vocational learners in activities appropriate as preparation for work. The required learning activities in teacher education are examined in terms of Stevenson’s (2004) concept of memorable activity and Beach’s (1999) idea of consequential transitions. In particular, it is argued that teacher education in this field needs to involve consequential transitions that interconnect the different forms of cognitive artefacts of vocational and vocational educational theory and practice, including personal knowledge of workplace activity, discipline-based (theoretical) knowledge, encapsulated and scripted expert knowledge (Boshuizen et al., 1995) and the informal knowledge that new learners bring to the setting. Suggestions are made for engaging trainee teachers in appropriate kinds of memorable activity through consequential transitions. These include explicitly designed experiences of eliciting, rendering and articulating different kinds of tacit and codified, personal and public meanings, and the relationships among them.