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 172.

    There are many good employers in the UK who operate modern factories creating value and the wealth for the country at large. These are usually in advanced processes using high technology to produce high value product. We need much more of this. Our education system has been slewed badly away from practical skills placing the non-academic on the scrap-heap before they are 16. This has to change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Employers have been saying this ever since the government abandoned the idea of apprenticeships and turned first-class technical colleges into second-rate universities. Not much chance of government listening now, either, being made up of career politicians who know nothing about the real world of industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    What employers are these?

    We have no industry for which to train our young up for.

    The only people employers want and have successfully lobbied for, are cheap slave labour on zero hours to boost their profits. Who cares if people are unable to get on the property ladder or contribute to the current flawed economic system.

    The Polititians/employers certainly don't care.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    What can you expect when recent times have seen a focus on university education for lots of silly subjects that had little or no practical application whatever?

    It was almost as if any job that didn't get your hands dirty was beneath students, and sadly their parents and their schools were brainwashed into believing that vocational employment was a definite no-no.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.


    `Factory fodder' is an ignorant statement. You clearly do not know how factories work these days. It is about team work, continuous improvement and improving productivity. Might I suggest you arrange to spend a week in a factory and broaden your mind.

    Also do not forget that this `factory fodder' pays your salary and will have to pay your pension. A bit more respect is in order.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    'What we need are people who can actually make things. Such products that require skill seem to be increasingly made abroad while we just do each other's bloody ironing.'
    Buisness only have themselves to blame for the lack of manufacturing skills, they moved all the skilled jobs to China for less wages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Those who do, do. Those who can't, go to University and waste 4 years of their lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    There needs to be a balance of vocational and academic education, as they both have their place at work and life in general. Academia needs to be backed up with the practical skills necessary to actually do the job. If you talk the talk, you need to walk the walk. The education system doesn't provide enough of both elements, it's very much one or the other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    What this country needs is for our children to get a good education. This includes both academic and vocational skill learning. Currently, our education and training systems score an F in both.
    Also, in my youth, apprenticeships used to last somewhere between 5 and 7 years. Wages were lousy during this time but, on qualification, we had a skilled individual capable of earning a very good living.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    42.Impedimental - I'm an employer - having a 16/17 yr old job applicant who knows the difference between their, there & they're would be a bonus for me...
    Depends what business you're in. I've got a mate that wouldn't have a clue about the difference, but he's got his own succesful shop fitting business employing 5 people (one of them will probably know the difference!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    In many countries, employers are heavily involved in providing and funding such training for their employees rather than expecting a free hand out from the Government as is the case of entitlement Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    This is a bit rich
    My former employer deliberately did not train people, then complained they couldn't recruit in the UK so went to India to import people on lower wages. They stayed 4 years, until they got permanent leave to stay and then moved on.

    Then the company started again, saving on training and wages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    They should offer 2 types of degree in the UK.

    1). Primary Degrees which include: Medicine, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Engineering, Architecture, Law.

    2). Secondary Degrees which include: everything else.


    Surely Media Studies should be in your first Category?

    How else do you get to become Prime Minister these days?

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    It's worth noting that changing the workforce isn't the only solution here. Equally, the scope of industry and business could be changed to one that requires more graduates.

    It just seems a bit unfair to just abandon those who have been encouraged to take higher education and worked hard but now have few job prospects.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    A better balance between academic and vocational courses would be welcome, not only for employability reasons but also because it might clarify the distinction between these two paths. There seems to be a misguided belief that having more doers than thinkers is going to solve our economic problems overnight, even though this can only limit our ability to innovate and compete with other countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Vocational education is in my experience just a numbers game.

    Training is often so poor & minimal that it meets the needs of few employers & more often than not the trainees are trapped in a low position, with low income & low/no chance to improve.

    Once one has been through this numbers system, one is then refused further education/training because one no longer meets criterea

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    They should offer 2 types of degree in the UK.

    1). Primary Degrees which include: Medicine, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Engineering, Architecture, Law.

    2). Secondary Degrees which include: everything else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    42.Impedimental - I'm an employer - having a 16/17 yr old job applicant who knows the difference between their, there & they're would be a bonus for me......or is that only taught at degree level now? ;-)

    100% agree. We recently recruited a new role & it took months to find a candidate that had a CV that wasn't littered with grammatical errors and could pass a simple arithmetic test.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    At last, some common sense.
    At the age of sixteen sudents should be guided towards a two or three career education path (Choice of vocational training).
    The small percentage of us with a talent for academia should be released from this standard career path training in order for us to get the best use out of students with specific notable talents in Physics, Chemistry, Engineering and the like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Lets get local industry to influence what it needs from the future workforce not politicians tinkering with numbers and form filling for teachers. Needs should dictate the subjects and the skills. Put money into a better skill based training rather where those on unemployment benefit attend a skill centre to give them the education to meet local needs, and if that doesn't exist create a need.


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