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 32.

    My boss refused to set 'Targets', he knew that minima became maxima and maxima became minima. As we have seen in Education. Health care and Policing he was absolutely correct. Government Targets have dragged down standards across the board.
    My Uncles served a 7 year apprenticeship and became skilled workers, a one year course hardly scrapes the start of skills. But of course Mr Gove knows best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I completely agree with Oldie@20.

    Many employers just want access to a source of free "work experience" candidates rather than actually employing anyone. It's cheaper and puts the blame on someone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Here we go again with employers blaming the Government for a lack of skill training, rather than taking the bull by the horns & sorting out the problem themselves.
    I remember this argument over 30 years ago, but back them we had employers who took some responsibility instead of expecting the tax payer to bail them out.
    For once I’m on the Government’s side on this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Schools are there to educate.

    Employers are there to train people to do a job.

    But employers want schools to do their jobs for them and that's the problem. They want ready-made "work units" without spending any time, effort or money themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    We are still suffering from the Thatcher era of manual skills being regarded as lowly employment because you get your hands dirty.
    Millions of youths since, although they are great with their hands, but not particularly academic have been reduced to stacking shelves or flipping burgers because of this attitude born in the 80's! Such a waste!

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    //. johnboy99

    Yes, education is vastly overrated isn't it.
    What's wrong with the old way - going to the right public school and having the right connections. It still works if you want to be a Tory MP./

    And you show your own snobbery and cluelessness, confirming my point. You clearly regard 'the trades' as something for the no-hopers, the plebs in this world.

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Its amazing that the picture chosen to be associated with skills shows engineering.
    However the biggest rewards exist for lawyers, bankers, business people, media luvvies etc etc. Even the overpaid know it all reporters. Business people and bankers excell at being paid for a service but finding someone else to do the actual work whilst taking a cut themselves. Or am I missing something?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    @19. The Bloke
    For too long, the left in general, spearheaded by the BBC, has seen education as a way to get into uni...
    Yes, education is vastly overrated isn't it.
    What's wrong with the old way - going to the right public school and having the right connections. It still works if you want to be a Tory MP.

  • 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 22.

    7.Goves Silly Temper Tantrum
    'The financial sector (city fatcats) produce nothing of value and only suck money out of the economy'

    Banking has a legitimate purpose to facilitate trade and investment. However much of the financial sector's activity is parasitical - extracting wealth from the economy without providing either goods or services.

  • 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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    This really infuriates me!
    1. School provides EDUCATION - it should be broad based and include academic & vocational skills
    2. EMPLOYERS & Colleges SHOULD provide TRAINING. - maybe some employers should stop their winging and work with local colleges to TRAIN their future workforce.

    Seems like everyone wants something for nothing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Looks spot on to me.

    For too long, the left in general, spearheaded by the BBC, has seen education as a way to get into uni, a tool of social mobility.

    As for the rest, Labour and the BBC envisaged the benefits route, with immigrants taking their place in the workforce.

    The left has really let down British working people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    13. sheila coleman
    This was Browns policy of "everyone" should go to Uni.
    Wow! Yet another thing Brown gets blamed for.

    In the real world Blair quoted an independent report saying that in 20 years 50% of new UK jobs would need degrees and at the same time many polys were rebranding as unis. Eg the old nursing course is now called a degree. Content is about the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    We used to have Polytechics where young people could get very good qualifications whilst in work as apprentices. Now we have a large number of deeply inbebted ex-academic students who can not even do basic technical work. Try the German methods of Appenticeships - then we can make things to sell abroad. How many MPs understand engineering....?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    When we stopped making things higher education was one of the area we developed into "new industries" It often functions to provide employment to prepare employees

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    How about employers "Boost vocational education" ?

    Schools, colleges and university should not be for "teaching the world of work" - that's what you learn once you start working.

    But employers are very unwilling to take that cost on; they expect everyone to be fully prepared for working having never worked before.

    Basically, employees expect education to do their job for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Let's face it, Gove is failing on all fronts. He should do the honourable thing and resign.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    My husbands apprenticeship was for 5 yrs in engineering many yrs ago. Now it seems some apprenticeships are a matter of weeks ie plumbing I believe. Just not long enough judging by the "bodge" jobs happening. This was Browns policy of "everyone" should go to Uni. Seemed to look down on any other job. Many are not academic but would be much happier doing something practical.


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