Education & Family

Boost vocational education, employers tell government

Boy welding
A poll of over a 1,000 employers suggests the government must do more to boost skills training

Almost two thirds (60%) of UK employers feel the UK government does not do enough to support skills education.

Nearly three quarters (72%) said they viewed vocational qualifications as essential for preparing young people for work.

Over 1,000 employers were quizzed for qualification provider City and Guilds and skills charity Edge Foundation.

The government said its reforms to apprenticeships were putting "employers in the driving seat".

Researchers questioned recruitment managers at a range of small, medium and large businesses in a variety of sectors across the UK.

Over half (53%) said they valued vocational qualifications in prospective employees above academic attainment.

'Wholesale overhaul'

Some 78% agreed that young people who preferred practical learning need a better alternative route to A-levels.

An overwhelming 83% said young people needed better advice on the career options open to them.

Some 84% also agreed that pupils needed more robust work experience while they were still at school.

The survey findings echo widespread concerns that vocational education can too often be of low quality, too short and fail to lead to jobs or further study.

More than two years ago a review of vocational qualifications by Prof Alison Wolf recommended an wholesale overhaul.

And last year a review of apprenticeships for the government by entrepreneur Doug Richard recommended that they should last for at least a year and genuinely prepare trainees in a new role.

'Proven route'

Earlier this year the Confederation of British Industry criticised the education system for continuing to focus teenagers on the "default" university route which, it said, would fail to close the UK's "chronic skills gaps".

Research for qualification provider City and Guilds this month found that half of businesses thought that the current education failed to meet their needs, while a third had considered recruiting skilled workers from abroad.

The government has embarked on a range of changes to vocational education and training in schools, colleges and work-places.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Business Innovation and Skills said: "Apprenticeships are a proven vocational route to a successful career.

"We have set out a clear and coherent set of reforms to apprenticeships.

"We will continue to increase quality, simplify the system and put employers in the driving seat.

"More than 60 employers from eight different sectors have already signed up to develop new standards as part of the first Apprenticeship Trailblazers.

"We will work with more businesses and sectors over the coming months to develop concise employer-led standards for apprenticeships."

The spokeswoman added that the government's new traineeships would help 16- to 24-year-olds improve their English and maths and to gain work skills and experience.

'Skills gap'

Jan Hodges, of the Edge Foundation, said it was refreshing to hear how highly employers of all sizes rated vocational education.

"We have skills gaps emerging in many sectors within the UK and it is crucial that young people are given the right training and encouragement to be able to fill these gaps."

Chris Jones, chief executive of City and Guilds, said "In recent years society has placed too much emphasis on academia.

"Employers are crying out for young people who have the right skills to add value to their business.

"Vocational qualifications can provide these skills - but how many people know about them?

"Careers advice provision in schools is limited, uninspiring and often purely focused on university."

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