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 192.

    The College elite think that manufacturing is an unskilled job when it actually requires more skill than an athlete as you have to hit the mark 100% of the time. The number crunchers moved plants to cheaper labor based on staffing in original plant, only to find they need more labor to make the same numbers-and have more errors-so to cut costs new crunchers repeat the loop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    It is all well and good for employers to complain and demand better vocational training. Without their investment and involvement it won't work. Policy in this area is weak BIS and DfE are NOT focusing on vocational skills but on academic. I believe they actually see little value in vocational qualifications. Until policy changes, employers put their money where their mouth is things won't change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Rather than building businesses based on sound investment and innovation we seem to have a bunch of undercapitalised barrow boys wanting a ready made pool of skilled but cheap labour which can be easily discarded once they are in a position to relocate abroad

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    The problem with government funded apprenticeships is that once the person is fully trained, they are about to become fully paid craftsmen and are then discarded in favour of another apprentice recruit.

    This ensures a steady supply of cheap labour and pleasing government, keeping down the NEETS list.

    If business needs a craftsman they should train them up and retain them otherwise taxpayers pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    When I think of my old schoolmates, 'Pygmalion' springs to mind.

    All the careers emphasis was on Medicine, Law, Accountancy, Engineering or Teaching. Obviously, most won't be suited to these jobs, but it was all we knew.

    So many of us became a bunch of Eliza Doolittles, no real skills but taught to consider ourselves 'above' trades. Takes a lot of soul searching to fix that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.


    "I went to Technical school in the 70s. Did an apprenticeship with Joseph Lucas ....."

    As another former Lucas man I agree with everything you say. Sad to experience the demise of that company. OK, it failed to recognise the rise of overseas competition, but the government stopped believing in manufacturing & started the university culture. Have they really learned? I doubt it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    I have not read this topic so am impartial.
    Businesses should get their finger out and start training their own recruits.
    It should not be taxpayers responsibility to fund business needs.
    Businesses should source from local supply and not poach overseas personnel unless it can not be sourced or trained in UK.

    UK Education system should educate to a generally high standard acceptable for society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    'Depends what business you're in'

    Of course - but the work involves writing up reports for customers, if it were manual or of a craft nature I wouldn't care too much.....which sort of brings me back round to my point which is I think vocational training with experienced teachers is a must for schools, not everyone is academic and you shouldnt be confined to flipping burgers if not

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Boost vocational education, employers tell government Boost vocational education, employers tell government
    How about you stop calling the shots over educating our youth and start training them yourselves .
    you need to restore the apprenticeship model we had in the 50's and 60's.
    You as businesses need to invest in our youth and not just use them as you use everything else.
    You train them

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    Who can blame kids for not wasting years of their lives gaining skills that mean nothing.. Skills are only half the story.

    Even if the government boosted vocational education employers still wouldn't employ those coming out of it because they didn't have 'experience'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    Come to Scotland. Our new Curriculum for Excellence is designed to find, nurture and develop the attributes and capabilities of each individual learner. This means non academic pupils can develop their strengths in areas that suit their needs rather than forcing them to take part in studies which are unrealistic for their abilities. It snot all about tests and exams up here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    apprentiships are cheap labour and also excuse for no work here, plus millions of romas and bulgarians will have the jobs. it is a sad country really too mamny people and births and no green space and wasted brown land which could be used .....etc etc what can you do???

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    This is correct and and what we need is to concentrate more on engineering math and science. Vocational qualifications that have a high level of science or maths involved is perfect to get this country making things again. We need something to rival A levels.

    If someone takes up welding or construction then put them on a HNC course in construction/electrical engineering etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    The problem is that Michael Gove from the outset has only been interested in the acdemic side of educating our young people. He fails to recognise that not everyone is academic and if he continues on this path will lose another generation to languish on benifits because his reforms have failed them. More vocational education alongside the academic is the answer not less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    Successive British governments and endless regiments of low-quality British managers have believed in the same dogma; don't spend any money of the workers - it would only make them move to better jobs on more money. So the answer has always been to give our people poor education and jobs with little or no skills or future. Can't see it changing soon either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    For some of us our talents are geared towards the practical side of things and for others it is academia. There is nothing wrong with either and we need both in order to live in modern society.

    Trying to squeeze the former into the latter is akin to hammering a square peg into a round hole.

    Such a waste.

    I don’t have a public school education and even I can figure that one out

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Under socialism all industry would be under control of the state and schools would supply an appropriately trained workforce to meet employer demands. Only a couple of years - after the collapse of capitalism - and under the leadership of Ed Milliband's Labour Government this will be achieved in a revival of the spirit of 1945.

  • 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 174.

    Simply not enough training.

    We keep hearing there is a skills shortage but there is a shortage of training and apprenticeships.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    As Headteacher of the Sir Frank Whittle Studio School this is exactly what we find when working with our industrial partners. Offering a high quality blend of the core academic qualifications along with high quality vocational qualifications better prepares young people for the real world. Linked to this students at the Studio School will undertake weekly work places to make their learning real.


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