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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  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    I'm looking at apprentiships for my son, due to leave school next year. Two of his friends have already been on apprentiships, lost their positions due to cuts in funding! Posts I see on the website are invariably just replacing the 'office junior' role, not real apprentiships. 20 years ago 2 A levels would have got you on a management training scheme, now you're lucky to make the coffee!

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Stop focussing so much on academic achievement. I say that as someone with a degree and PhD. It has it's place, and we do need a sizeable minority to have a high level of academic achievement.
    But not all are cut out for the academic side, we also need a variety of people with different skills in different jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I went to Technical school in the 70s. Did an apprenticeship with Joseph Lucas and worked as a toolmaker for 10 years. I did a 4 year B.Ed degree and then taught Design & Technology for 25 years. I found most middle class people looked down on 'practical' people. In education D&T is being sidelined and the quality of current PGSE D&T teachers is appalling. Practical skills are still undervalued.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Having joined the teaching profession ten years ago, after 20 years in industry, I have met very few lazy teachers. What I have seen in the last few years is the government making it impossible for schools to realistically teach vocational courses, many of which are highly valuable and teach skills that industry needs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Gove plans to reduce practical/skills education even more with the focus solely going on rigid academic subjects. Schools will only be judged on this narrow criteria. Already, many schools are reducing teachers in practical subjects like engineering, art, design technology etc. League tables ruin true education as many education experts predicted years ago.


Comments 5 of 7


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