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Should vocational courses in England change?

10:33 UK time, Thursday, 3 March 2011

Too many young people in England are doing vocational courses that do not lead to a job or a university place, according to a report. How useful are these courses?

A review by education expert, Professor Alison Wolf, said between a quarter and a third of 16 to 19-year-olds are on courses "which score well under league tables but don't lead to higher education or paid employment".

The report is calling for changes to school league tables so some vocational qualifications are not counted and recommend that pupils study a core of academic subjects until they are 16.

Do you agree with these proposed changes? Are vocational courses a waste of time? Did you get a university place after completing one of these courses? Do you think there are alternatives to university when it comes to getting a good job?

Thank you for your comments. This debate is now closed.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Without any courses' to go to, The youth unemployment would be much higher, than now at new record levels'!!! Some courses'can be very useful in the real world of work ,if the Government cuts stop them, many young people will suffer due to lack of knowleage, in the short term, and in the long term more jobless unskilled workers.

  • Comment number 2.

    Yes, they do not work and fail to deliver opportunity to those who do them.

    The UK needs to wake up and realise that not every child is capable of getting a degree or even wants to. However, it must be feasible for all children to fullfil their potential.

  • Comment number 3.

    Education, Education, Education, was the mantra of Bliar. More recently he professed that Mubarak is a force for good and he is also a good friend of another world leader who is currently being prosecuted for sex offences in his own country. Should we be surprised that a real expert on education thinks that we have got it wrong?

  • Comment number 4.

    Should we have a debate about something of importance?

  • Comment number 5.

    Its all about producing indices, whether they be for performance, condition etc. etc., for propaganda purposes. Communist countries glorified their regimes using similar means.
    So let's the crap and start telling the truth! Only then will real change take place for the benefit of all.
    Get rid of all these soft degree and vocational courses and introduce proper works-based training in their place.

  • Comment number 6.

    Too many young people are doing university courses (and increasingly incurring life-long debt) that either does not lead to a job, or into a job for which a university education really isn't necessary and doesn't pay high enough to justify the expense of going to university in the first place....

    Bottom line is that vocational skills have a real practical value in society and are needed. We have spent too much time trying to stuff kids into university - while more graduates has some benefits, I suspect this strategy has simply lowered the overall calibre of graduates (dumbed down) and as we have seen from the tuition fees debate, simply cost the country a lot of money for dubious additional contribution to our GDP.

  • Comment number 7.

    4. At 11:27am on 03 Mar 2011, ziggyboy wrote:

    Should we have a debate about something of importance?

    Yes you're right. Education isn't of the slightest importance. Can't we talk about the cricket or the Oscars instead?

  • Comment number 8.

    The whole point of a vocational course is to lead to a vocation. If they do not give a person skill for a particular job what is the point?

  • Comment number 9.

    Back in the 60's, when I left school a few weeks after my 15th birthday, I started work and a block release course at the local college. I spent 8 weeks or so working then a similar time in college. That lasted for three years. It gave the best of both worlds, you got practical experience and worked with real people and you got to learn all the theory behind the requirements and actions. I went on via HNC to Chartered status. It worked very well for me, perhaps a return to that kind of course would be better than we have now?

  • Comment number 10.

    Courses in plumbing, electrics, car mechanics, carpentry which lead to a industry recognised qualification = good

    Courses in lesure and tourism or beauty management taken as easy options to boost the school in the 5 A*-C GCSE's league table with no future use = bad

  • Comment number 11.

    I remeber some of my friends taking the YTS scheme for 16- 18 year olds in the 90's where the government paid you £30 and the employer gave you work/training, most young people got the shaft as they were the skivvy made to work full time and didnt get a full time job at the end of it, as soon as the 2 years were up they got the boot as the employer didn't want to pay the extra and got another YTS in.

    Its nice to see nothing has changed

  • Comment number 12.

    I think more education is always a good thing. However people must also realise that just getting a qualification doesn't get you a job. You have to stand out from the rest of the applicates and sometimes a qualification will do that, but it's also how well you'd fit in to the company that's important.

    With regards to doing courses to get to university, if that's your goal then you should really check what the entry requirements are before you start down a path of doing a certain qualification. If you don't then you only have your self to blame for that.

  • Comment number 13.

    Ignore the education experts and the politicians and just ask the employers.

    Half the problem is using education experts from academia to try and gauge what kids should learn for the real world or work.

    Why not ask the real world of work what we need in young people?

    Any CBI survey of staff skill reveals a worrying lack of useable skills in simple maths and English never mind exotic stuff like a basic understanding of science or plumbing!

  • Comment number 14.

    It is long overdue that the entire structure and process of the education system was given a massive shake up.

    There are students studying for and sitting exams that are of no real use to them, or prospective employers, and exist only to boost the results of the school/college.

    The first step must be to take the education policy away from the so-called experts, most of whom know very little about the real world outside of the failing education system that they perpetuate.

    Almost the entire purpose of the education/examination system in schools and universities is to enable the 'leavers' to obtain jobs and follow a career of some description. In reality, very little of what is taught and learned gives any regard to this whatsoever.

    There should be a serious and meaningful dialogue with a wide cross-section of employers covering the whole spectrum of the employment market leading to designing what and how children are taught. This is the only way that children will have a hope of employment when leaving the full-time education system.

    Currently, all that seems to matter to the schools is their position in the 'league tables'. The fortunate children, almost as a by-product, learn something useful along the way.

  • Comment number 15.

    4. At 11:27am on 03 Mar 2011, ziggyboy wrote:
    Should we have a debate about something of importance?

    You don't think education is important?

  • Comment number 16.

    I was once on a vocational course.
    The tutor set and marked the exam papers.
    No apparent moderation by the examining body.
    What value this qualification?

  • Comment number 17.

    There are quite a number of courses which will never ever get one to University. Some courses in Engineering can help, but need further studies to get a place. Its really a question of putting oneself about to make the studying one has done to get a job. If one thinks one gets a job because one has got a BTech dip, then sorry its needs more than a bit of paper to do the job properly.

  • Comment number 18.

    To many people going to university and not enough jobs for graduates now they are slamming vocational courses for the same reason.

    May be just may be there might not be enough jobs.... Period.

    At least with a vocational course (subject depending) they might be able to prepare themselves for self employment quicker than if they took 3-4 year degree course if they can't get employed work.

  • Comment number 19.

    Maybe I've got it wrong, but I thought the whole point of a vocational course was that it covered - I don't know, hairdressing or bricklaying or carpentry - and did indeed lead to a job (if of course there are any jobs at all, which is unlikely for anyone in a time of recession, with 2.5m and rising unemployed chasing 0.5m jobs). In the hopes that this recession will eventually end, I think, then, that vocational courses are a Good Thing.

    I don't believe that every young person, or even 50% of young people, should follow an academic path and go to university: that's just a nonsense, and to force all young people to study academically until they're 16 will simply increase the numbers bunking off school because it's irrelevant to them. The old Secondary Moderns were set up to cater for exactly these young people and, in the main, did so very well. Sic transit gloria mundi: we ended up with Comprehensives instead, which it sometimes seems cater adequately for no-one, though the teaching staff do their best.

    The worst of all worlds is those who pursue hairdressing or bricklaying or carpentry (or Klingon Studies, or whatever) at university. A whole raft of courses now seems to exist which focus purely on subjects for which a university degree is at best an irrelevance, at worst a dangerous distraction: nursing is a case in point, where basic standards of caring and compassion have been sacrificed to desk-learning, to the detriment of patients everywhere.

    If the government persists (as I fear it will) in the folly of promoting the idea of money following students, there is a horrible, but quite big, chance that we shall see more irrelevant degrees offered in spurious subjects, just because that is what the more foolish among our young people imagine they want. If students deterred by cost are added to by students who won't go because universities resolutely stick to their academic standards, then the gap in funding (between students entering university and students coughing up when they find work) for which the government has entirely neglected to cater, looks - for many perfectly good universities - like proving terminal.

  • Comment number 20.

    Sounds a bit like Maggie's YTS schemme in the 80's which translated not Youth Training Scheme, but to Young Tempory Slaves.

    I saw many a poor teenager come through this and finish up knowing absolutely nothing, they were used as cheap labour and taught zilch.

    Apprentiships are no good now because The Uk manufactures nothing, what does one do, I have no idea, for the first time ever I am pleased to be 64 not 24!

  • Comment number 21.

    What does the Government want? Once it was agreed that all children should be given the same education, i.e. comprehensive, we should ignore the fact that some of us are more able either academically or practical and many children were disadvantaged, the academic as well as the practically minded. Today anyone who does not go to university is judged as failing. Vocational education is good for the 'dumwits' in school, who early in life have given up hope to achieve anything. Cameron wants to put Oxbridge Dons in the classrooms to encourage students to aim for their standard of education. Anyone watching Jamie's dream school must have noticed how completely out of touch these learned fellows are with the youth of today who have 'failed' in education. Why not putting successful plumbers, builders, electricians in the classrooms to tell their tale of possibilities and success? Today's message is that all students should follow more academical courses, again a put down for those for whom that is difficult to achieve. The result is more East European plumbers, electricians, etc coming into this country, soon able to claim all the benefits available to them. More and more youth unemployment because too many youngsters have been left without proper training in skills they can feel proud of and that will give them employment and a good living. This mostly private, grammar school educated government needs to shift its focus from expensive university education to the thousands of young men and women for whom life has little to offer because they have not been prepared to make it work for them.

  • Comment number 22.

    They have replaced what was a couple of hours on the job training with an old hand in to a long drawn out training programme run by educationalist who can not do the job themselves.
    They have lead to a work force of unskilled, untrained, useless future employees, with nothing but a bit of paper to offer.
    Bring back apprenticeships under the guidance of skilled workers and we will see old skills passed down, instead of an intellectuals interpretation of them and a lump of useless paper to say you turned up to listen.
    Those who can do, those who can not, teach

  • Comment number 23.

    Re. comment #13, Paul J Weighell : "Ignore the education experts and the politicians and just ask the employers."

    You are absolutely right. However, this has already happened because it the employers who asked for vocational qualifications in the first place because university graduates knew the theory, but weren't ready for work...

  • Comment number 24.

    Here we go again!!!

    Look, some people are academic and some aren't. Some people who are academic want to go the vocational route via college/uni, some don't.

    Some people who are not academically inclined have other skills - they may be good with people, with their hands, artistic - or may be academically gifted in one area only.

    We are not all born with the same abilities - education has to make the best of each child - one format will never fit all.

    Quite frankly, the old system of grammar school, comprehensive and junior comprehensive was a better way of trying to get this ideal, as long as kids could transfer between them, and if opportunites also arise after school, for further training if needed. (Some people also don't have any idea what they want to do until after they've been out in the world for a bit).

    I went the academic route after I had a family, I also took a course in admin, so I could get temporary jobs in the summer and between working contracts. So maybe a compromise between vocational and non-vocational courses would be a better route to getting a job full-stop.

    I wish that they would stop tinkering with the education system and realise that, given the fact that many will have to change jobs and careers over their working lives, training courses of all sorts are needed, and not just for those of school leaving age.

  • Comment number 25.

    My understanding is that vocational courses train a particular skill, with a qualification at the end of the course for that young person. Unfortunately, successive governments of all colours since the 1970s have made a series of admittedly (in view of the overwhelming power of the international economic situation) limited choices about where the UK economy should concentrate its energies. There are now very few jobs in the UK, relative to the youth population, for which vocational training is any use at all. To clarify, the UK does not, on the whole, produce things i.e. goods, commodities. In this situation, those young people who have a choice concentrate on trying to get the sorts of qualifications that may, with luck, lead them into parasitic (in the strict sense that they rely on the rest of the economy functioning) jobs i.e the law, politics, various government and health bureaucracies. Even for these young people, who may have spent 3 -4 years acquiring a university degree plus some other qualification, jobs are hard to come by. The real question is: how can the UK begin to reverse the disastrous economic decisions that have been taken since the 1970s? This is not about the current education system, or about how well young people present themselves or how "qualified" they are: the issue is historical, systemic, and is common to an entire generation.

  • Comment number 26.

    "Too many young people in England are doing vocational courses that do not lead to a job or a university place"

    Surely vocational courses should lead to a job no a univeristy palce which is presumably the outcome of an academically weighted education...or am I missing the point?

  • Comment number 27.

    Courses which lead somewhere should be nationally identified. Courses which are not good enough for work/further education should be easy to identify but still available (and charged for).

    Education in useful subjects should be promoted, pushed and obviously beneficial. Everything else should be purely a case of capitalism. If people want it they will pay for it, even if its not of serious use in their lives.

  • Comment number 28.

    These courses are essential - my experiences as an employer are that the majority of the output of our education system, are not employment ready. We see individuals that are looking for a job but simply do not have the basics such as work ethic, the right command of the English language to talk to customers or the capacity to take on a responsibillity. Enthusiasm, something you would expext from youth, is often missing.
    Sadly this means that older candidates are preferred, these courses should not only be continued, they should be improved and business would improve as a result.

  • Comment number 29.

    Back in the dim dark ages when I were a lass & considering Further/Higher ed (ok actually about 18 years ago) The courses you went on to study were usually related in some way to the career you wanted to follow, or at least had more than a passing interest in. Now it seems that everyone is so desperate to get kids into uni & off the unemployed lists, we'll run any old course we think they might have a go at. As such we end up with pointless courses that could never lead to a career in anything. As for those vocational courses that could lead to a career, they end up oversubscribed by kids looking for a soft option or a doss & those who actually want a career in these subjects end up outnumbered by layabouts.
    I know whereof I speak because I studied the dreaded performing arts (arrgh *mickey mouse course* alert!). There was a hell of a difference between school, where any idiot who wanted a doss could do gcse drama & make the lives of those who actually wanted to study a living hell, & the further & higher education establishments where I did my diploma & degree. The difference? the FE & HE establishments were specialist drama schools meaning you had to pass multiple auditions, interviews & be willing to pay a hell of a lot for the education you'd recieve. This meant all the people on my courses wanted to be there, wanted to do well, the dropout rate was virtually non existant. I could have done both my diploma & degree at regular colleges & uni's but I don't think I would have benefitted as much as I did or have managed to work in my chosen field for as long as I did. I firmly believe that a more rigorous selection process for vocational courses should be applied, after all...

    "vo·ca·tion   /voʊˈkeɪʃən/ Show Spelled
    1. a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.
    2. a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career. "

    A vocational course is supposed to lead to a career, If you aren't interested at all why the hell are you studying it? Make them harder to get on to & more expensive, offer generous grants to those that excel & you'll find the "soft" courses that don't lead to a career will disappear.

  • Comment number 30.

    These courses for young people are an excuse to not give them proper jobs or apprentiships.Worse still government employment schemes or work for dole give employers slave labour for nothing.
    None of this is young peoples fault and frankly I dont blame them for not wanting to go on a course just to massage the govt unemployment figures or to provide slave labour. OUR children and young people deserve better and more respect from adults and employers... remember you reap what you sow. Quit blaming the kids, give them jobs and respect and who knows you might be able to turn a generation around. If not, keep employing migrants and leave our kids on the trash heap, hey why even educate them in the first place if they have no future in this country why bother at all?

  • Comment number 31.

    YTS, Workfare etc etc.....................IF there's no real jobs with reasonable prospects WHY should our youth bover! I'm guessing quite a few will subscribe to that thought! I'm guessing the roles models in any of their lives have or will be confronted with redundancies etc.....

  • Comment number 32.

    I support comment 10
    everything depends on the course, every child has their own strength
    academic or practical or somewhere inbetween, people with practical skills do need to be valued and not to be looked down on as some academics and employers seem to do.

  • Comment number 33.

    Its outrageous and ultimately dangerous and economically/financially and socially damaging for vocational courses to be used in such a way as to provide pure positive statistics when the truthful and factual outcome is that many of these "qualifications" do NOT provide students with ANY or very little ability to gain employment.

    Vocational courses are fine if they result in a standard of qualification which is fully recognised and condusive to employer/employment needs.

    It is pointless to teach someone to lay bricks if they have no capability to competantly understand the technicalitys of building structures and legal requirements and able to work out outcomes which require a competant understanding and knowledge of maths and English.

    Many of these vocational courses are relatively like teaching soldiers to JUST shoot a gun and then sending them out to battle without the FULL set of skills/training/education needed to function competantly.

    Economic and financial employment is NO LESS a battlefield than a war zone, it is purely negligent to send people out to do battle with negligable competant ability.

    The report will say children should study mainly academic subjects until they are 16 and that if they do not get a good GCSE in English and maths by that age, they should be made to continue with those subjects.

    I have said this many times over the years. I think children/students should be made to continue with maths and English education until they are of a competant level which provides them with the basis and foundation to fully participate in employment on a MORE EQUAL basis.

    So what if it takes 2 years or more longer to reach competant levels and qualification, the reality is, is that without them, people get further and further behind those who did gain REAL qualification.

    At the end of the day, it is BECAUSE these levels of qualification are NOT achieved which results in such poor prospects and results in so much dropping out from society with little/no hope for the future and as they get older these people THEN realise what opportunity has been lost but it is then TOO LATE to remedy the situation because our education system basically CUTS YOU OFF once you reach specific ages and becomes increasingly harder and personally unaffordable to get back into education.

    A further FACT, is that our economy/industry just CANNOT sustain such large numbers of poorly qualified underskilled or LOW SKILLED jobs. Most of those jobs are now essentially done abroad, for $1 or a bit more a day.

    Learning a trade without the FULL set of skills which include competance in English and maths and understanding techicalitys etc, is just pointless and a TOTAL WASTE of effort/resources and does NOTHING for the future wellbeing of those who gain these useless qualifications who are then sent out into the world and basically dumped to fend for themselves without the skills to survive economically, and turned into some other government departments statistical difficulty/problem to deal with.

  • Comment number 34.

    Another labour cock up to sort out. Well done Red Ed and your crew, another waste of taxpayers money.

  • Comment number 35.

    A number of points

    1. The UK is very weak on all forms of technical training and we have effectively lost our skills base.

    2. Technical people are poorly rewarded and thought of in the UK, this is a cultural problem.

    3. The legal system does not provide a framework for stable apprenticeship. Companies will not invest in young people because as soon as they are trained they leave for higher money and the company doing the training lose their investment often to competitors.


    Allow non-academic children to leave conventional school for technical college at 14.

    Incentivise companies to set-up up training schemes though the corporate tax system. Schemes would have to be validated and lead to a recognised qualification.

    The government should present technical and engineering skills in a positive light. Engineering and science courses at University should be paid for by the government.

    There should be a form of legal contract that ties apprentices to there place of training for 2 years.

  • Comment number 36.

    @ Europhile

    'Apprentiships are no good now because The UK manufactures nothing'

    What nonsense. In 2007 the UK was the 7th largest manufacturer in the world, making 345bn dollars a year worth of goods, nearly 100bn more than the next largest (France)and only 20bn away from the 5th largest (Russia)

  • Comment number 37.

    A proper vocational education for some kids is much better than a university degree, my plumber charges for emergencies £76.00 to arrive at your door and £75.00 per half hour or no call-out charge for non emergencies, he is very good and well worth the money as he is very good, most problems resolved within half an hour.

    With 3 years university and 35 years experience I only earn 75% of that so I sometimes wonder what the attraction of further education is

  • Comment number 38.

    I stuck at A levels in 6th form for almost year and hated it so much that I went to college and studied a vocational qualification (GNVQ) in Leisure and Tourism instead.

    I got into uni, gained an upper second class degree and now work in projects for onE of the countries biggest tour operators.

    With my bad experience of A levels I doubt I would have achieved so much had I carried on with them.

    The vocational route worked for me and I am thankful for an alternative option.

  • Comment number 39.

    "which score well under league tables but don't lead to higher education or paid employment".

    I think this depends very much on the type of vocational courses out there.
    As for scoring well under the league tables - They should not. The skills learnt (How these courses are marked is you have to prove you are able to perform the job and have learnt the required skills) are far more practical and applicable then classroom training.

    University doesnt always provide a paying job - Shall we scrap that too? =/

    I did a 2 year apprenticeship. I now work for the company I did the apprenticeship in, and I am alot better off than if I went to UNI. I dont have debt, and I actually have a job, Unlike alot of my friends.

  • Comment number 40.

    Strange. All these years I thought the term 'Vocation' was an excuse to pay poverty level wages.

    As in "There's no point going on about a wage rise. Your job is a vocation. Nobody ever became a (...) because they wanted to get well paid."

    Yes, someone actually said that to me in a job.

    I left.

  • Comment number 41.

    There will be some good and some bad vocational courses out there but there. But the question is should they be taught in schools in my opinion the answer is no.

    Vocational courses should be taught after people have taken their GCSE's and not before or instead of.

    I am of an age of when there was an option of leaving at 15 or staying on to 16.

    Most pupils keep changing their minds about what job they want to do, if there are jobs that is, when they are at school.

    So it would be better to stop them at school and concentrate on the old fashioned 3 r's.

    No matter what job you do you still need to be able to have the basic qualifications and be able to read and write and add up.

    I despair sometimes when you see young people these days trying to work out if it is cheaper to buy 2 for 1.99 or 2 at 99p each for example.

    There have been comments on here about vocational courses for leisure tourism etc being bad. To those people wake up and smell the coffee manufacturing has been in decline for years. These are industries that attract a lot of people and also employ a lot of people so there should be courses in those subjects.

    But all vocational subjects should be taught when a person has left school.

  • Comment number 42.

    Stop all benefits and free healthcare and give some people a taste of REAL poverty. Then they may learn to value education a little more.

  • Comment number 43.

    It does not matter what educational or skills a person can obtain all the employers care about is the cheapest workers so they can maximise their profit. The gap between rich and poor will continue to grow until employers are reigned in. I'm not talking about small employers but the big boys, they are the ones who say that workers wages should be kept down whilst lining their own pockets. They are the ones who say we have to compete with the Chinese and Indian workers and wages should be comparable to theirs. O.K. lets go down that path on the understanding that the goods and services that these people control are at the same cost to the average person in the U.K. as they are to workers in the Far East.

    Give people some incentive to work hard and study and you will get the results required. This is what happened in the Far East, most of Europe and Australiasia, and is the result of their success. For too long the average working person in this country has been denigrated and vilified by the press barons and the city, and the results are there to see people will rather be on the dole than work, women are not given the same wage as a male employee even though they may be a better worker. A wage that reflects ones worth is what is required for the competence a person has.

    Will I see this in my life time? Nah!

  • Comment number 44.

    ziggyboy wrote: Should we have a debate about something of importance?

    Why? Will it make a difference? All you armchair superheroes who whinge about the topics on HYS miss the point completely - discussing things will change... absolutely nothing.

    If you're really concerned about certain things then get off your butt and get involved. Being a professional whinger does not make one jot of difference to the world (apart from making it just a little bit more miserable).

  • Comment number 45.

    yes lets blame the education system for the fact there 4 or 5 people unemployed to each job out there!

    couldnt be that the country is full to the brim from overpopulation and uncontrolled immigration? therefore nomatter what happens there are not enough jobs to go around anymore?

  • Comment number 46.

    University vocational courses can be entirely useless, but more needs to done to stop the 'unless you haven't got a degree you're not going to get very far' culture. Unfortunately, unless you have the word 'degree' on your CV, no matter how useless that degree actually was, then you may find it harder than others to get get a job.

  • Comment number 47.

    The courses have their place but they should not be regarded as highly as other subjects. People are losing out because their efforts to focus on challenging core subjects do not stand them apart from those who have taken a less academic route.

    I have often been frustrated to find that my A-Level grades in challenging subjects (Maths, History and Economics & Business) are weighted on exactly the same scale as Drama, Psychology and Film Studies.

  • Comment number 48.

    4. At 11:27am on 03 Mar 2011, ziggyboy wrote:
    Should we have a debate about something of importance?


    So, you do not consider the fact that our education system fails to provide so many with useable economic skills as of no importance.

    The future wellbeing of our nation will be based upon what education delivers or does not deliver. Such large numbers of low skilled people with little opportunity or prospects is basically ADDING to growing unsustainability and damages our whole social system resulting in much extra & greater costs to working taxpayers who have to pay increasing amounts of their income to sustain/maintain the unsustainable, AND, also become victims of crime resulting from economic and financial hardship which increases crime.

  • Comment number 49.

    It would be so nice if, for a change, the government told us something we don't already know. I went to Grammar School back in the 70's. I studied all the academic subjects from Latin to Mathematics, and, I also learned woodwork, metalwork and car mechanics. I mastered tenon joints, welding and rebuilding internal combustion engines when I was about 14. Those idiots who condemn this type of education are now being called to account. We should realise that carpenters, electricians and plumbers need mathematics and physics. Similarly, waiters need to know more than how to carry a plate to a table, they need to know about food management.

  • Comment number 50.

    All education is good. For some vocational courses are a better way of learning. However lack of jobs at the end of it is due to the current set up of this country and over-population.

    One day someone will work out that too many cuts, wars, no investment and excessive immigration is a bad for the UK's people and economy.

    Seems so easy, but courses will help our people be qualified for work, but you still have to get companies to employ young British people and the young British people to work hard to ensure they stay employed.

  • Comment number 51.

    Sadly many of the vocational course are just to keep youth unemployment figures lower and are a product of the last incompetent government who did not have a basic understanding of how a 21st century economy should operate as they were well and truly in La La Land and believed (like all children) there is a Magic Money Tree.
    Reality bites !!
    Now there are some signs that government have some semblance of belief in the REAL world and knowledge of economics (ie we have to create REAL jobs and REAL wealth) which should help OUR children get true training.
    It is also an indictment of the education system which has been too long in the hands of the left and their loony, fantasy policies. Many (I would say most) of the education profession have never had a job in the private sector and do not understand (or want to understand) the requirements of the private wealth producing sector. This is the main reason we falling rapidly down world rankings in education standards whilst the education establishment has its head firmly up a lower part of the anatomy.

  • Comment number 52.

    Unfortunately babies aren't born with certificates attached to their heads telling parents what occupation they should follow or how they will learn that occupation.
    Not all children are gifted in normal academic education, but all children have innate skills and most want to earn their own way.
    Vocational training should be paid from public funds to train young apprentices and provide internships.
    If a child is not academically gifted, s/he will not learn best from oral instruction or books; this inabilityis is part of the problem.
    These children learn best from watching and hands-on training.
    Book learning is not learning.
    Racking up degrees is not learning.
    Learning how to think & imagine is learning.
    Once the vocational training is complete, business/corporations, even master craftspersons should be pucking up the apprenticeship with partial reimbursement from the government until the "student" reaches fill working productivity. Should full productivity never happen, but the child is trying his hardest, then we should rejoice that the individual is giving all he can (including taxes) to his country.
    There is also the issue of blue-collar jobs vs. white collar jobs.
    This has got to stop. As long as people are contributing to the best of their ability, they should be respected and even honoured. Think about this the next time someone lays your beautiful garden, or lays the foundation for your home, or installs you glorious windows...
    The blue-collar system is laden with non-advantageous incentives”, including lower prestige, and the idea that vocational training is wonderful, but not gor my kid!.
    Only 1/3 of 16-year-olds progress to A-levels. Most of the rest take some kind of vocational qualifications. So, it may be necessary to ensure that these vocational courses are in demand occupations and not kite-flying over the Thames.
    Also Britain should look at its funding system - does the money follow the child, or does the money follow the demand for that occupation? The money should follow the demand for the occipation.

  • Comment number 53.

    It came as a big surprise to me anybody believed vocational courses lead to anything other than the provider making money, and, as #1 puts it so clearly, where would unemployment, not to mention young aspirations and ambitions, be without them?

    If there was someone policing academia with the same passion as it pursues poor influences (for example) perhaps the courses would be less expensive and more constructive or not exist at all. Anyone who has spent a few hundred quid (or more) on a vocational course knows the standards vary enormously but, at the final analysis, they all rely on a certain someone to really apply themselves to be of any use. And of course the provider survives (or not) on this steady stream of certain someones.

    Why is it society really hasn't the time or consideration of the many for whom a career or work means utilising something they ARE good at, instead of forever having a moan about what they do not do well in traditional material? We need core subjects that is true, but surely they should be well and truly mopped up before the child begins secondary education. Once a child has mastered the most important facets of reading, writing and arithmetic, their development should embody at least one thing the child enjoys or excels at, or does everything really have to be a means to an end. Can we have less standardisation and more emphasis on the individual please?

  • Comment number 54.

    The skill levels that are obtained by many vocational courses are of such low quality and lacking in foundation english and maths skills that they are useless to MOST employers, hence are a fraudulent con which conspire to suggest to students that they will obtain something at the end of it which is basically hollow and non-existant.

    I am glad this government plans to do something about them, there is NOTHING worse than providing FALSE HOPE, which is the factual outcome of many present vocational courses.

  • Comment number 55.

    YeT AnoTher Post FROM mr Wonderful REALITY that I CANT be bothered TO read because all THE unnecessary CAPITAL letters give ME headache.

    Is there a vocational course on shift key skills?

  • Comment number 56.

    As a teacher of both academic and vocational courses (A-levels and BTECs), different learners thrive on different courses: the trick is assigning each one to the course most appropriate for their abilities, interests and aspirations. Many young people who have performed poorly in traditional schooling find the different approach to studying a BTEC preferable and achieve far higher grades that they would have done if they'd embarked on an A-level programme.

    That said, it's always important to ensure that ALL learners get a thorough grounding in basic skills (communication, application of number and ICT) and that they follow a wide range of studies that leaves their options open until they have decided on the area that they wish to pursue. I had one student who arrived in the Sixth Form dead-set on studying Medicine... who left to study Theology!

    You also need to recognise that EDUCATION and TRAINING are two different things. It is not appropriate for a school to be providing 'on-the-job' training: that is a role for employers, with the support of a Further Education college if necessary (as in an apprenticeship scheme).

    Of course, one of the really damaging things has been the insistence on these futile 'league tables' - schools are not football teams, with a ready method of determining who does best, but establishments whose role is to inspire each and every learner to be the best they can possibly be... which for some will be exceptional by anyone's standards, whilst others will have reason to be proud of much more meagre attainment, because they have pushed their own abilities to the limit and beyond.

  • Comment number 57.

    39. At 12:30pm on 03 Mar 2011, FemaleinSheffield wrote:
    "which score well under league tables but don't lead to higher education or paid employment".

    I think this depends very much on the type of vocational courses out there.
    As for scoring well under the league tables - They should not. The skills learnt (How these courses are marked is you have to prove you are able to perform the job and have learnt the required skills) are far more practical and applicable then classroom training.

    University doesnt always provide a paying job - Shall we scrap that too? =/


    If the vocational courses do not provide sufficient skills for employment or progressing on to further education, they do nothing except keep people off the unemployment list.

    As for universities - presumably most people go to university hoping to obtain work at the end of the day? If the QUALITY of the course means they do not obtain work then, yes, perhaps some of those courses need to be reviewed.

  • Comment number 58.

    A few years ago I placed an ad for a house cleaner but stipulated only people with university degrees accepted, I had 6 replies, so just goes to show a degree does not always secure a good job especially when one had BA in Mind and Knowledge and another had BA Philosophy and Social Policy obviously two well worth while degrees.

  • Comment number 59.

    Whilst making my GCSE options in the mid-nineties, we had it drummed into us that the vocational qualifications at the time - the GNVQ - was for those less gifted pupils that were unlikely to attain decent grades in traditional qualifications.

    Similarly, when I returned to school as a teacher nearly 10 years later, the renamed vocational qualifications - the vGCSE and AVCE - were still regarded as simply a dumping ground for those that would otherwise struggle to get the school it's desired grades.

    Having also taken into account the course content, the assumption that the vocational course is inferior is immensely justified. They fail to address any generic key skills nor teach them any specific abilities that could one day be transferred to employment.

    Now working outside education, vocational qualifications on a CV tells me nothing about the skills of an applicant and if competing for a job alongside another young person with GCSEs or A Levels, it is likely that it would go to the latter (assuming similar experience and interview performance). All down to a widespread and long-established belief of what the vocational qualification offers.

    The best solution would be to scrap these entirely and focus on the development and availability of occupational rather than vocational qualifications (eg BTECs) alongside a vastly improved and nationally acknowledged key skills course. This way, pupils that wish to follow a less academic route can gain skills of a trade, improve on their basic literacy and numeracy capabilities, plus earn a qualification recognising these specific skills.

  • Comment number 60.

    Yes, vocational courses have failed. Sure, many students do go on to University and employment from these courses, but most enough. The has several facets. Firstly, colleges often don't have the facilities. Sure, many have hair salons and workshops now, which is an improvement, but what about courses like forensic science? Thousands of students are taking this course, enticed by TV programs like CSI, but this course is really a basic science course with some forensics thrown in. Colleges do not have the facilities to do much of what forensic scientists would actually do - the money and equipment simply aren't there! Exam boards and colleges have mislead students in order to fill seats and cash-in. Very few of these students will go on to become forensic scientists, since there is little demand at present for this role. Employers are partly to blame - someone trains to be a baker, but colleges churn out bakers irrespective of the actual industrial demands, so what does a baker do if there is no demand for bakers? Do they spend money (their own or tax-payers) on retraining ad infinitum, whilst earning nothing? Employers MUST be prepared to train people from the bottom up - we NEED apprenticeships!! Employers refuse to spend money on training (which is not always successful) and expect FE colleges to do this for them, but the best way to learn a job is on the job!! Employers can't even be bothered to consider 'transferable skills' - this phrase is now obsolete - employers expect specific training, down to every detail, and prior experience!! Young people in this country have not got a chance!! Employers would sooner employ somebody with experience from abroad. Our youth have been forcefully excluded from society. Indeed, it isn't just the youth, but people in mid-life who want or need to cross-over, for whatever reason, find it almost impossible to do so. Someone who does forensic science, for example, should be suitable for any job involving, for example, data analysis and the use of spreadsheets, but employers do not think this way - they would sooner employ somebody who has already done the exact job required before they begin! Employers MUST be FORCED to take responsibility for training, as they will not do it by choice! Small employers should EASILY be able to apply for grants from government for this purpose. Academia has also been a casualty of this colossal mess-up. Many colleges got rid of labs and science staff as science was deemed 'academic' only to find that more and more vocational courses need science, and now the facilities to deliver these units is simply not there! This proves the falsity of the academic/vocational distinction! Industry has for centuries relied upon the work of academia, and now that base has been dissolved and industry is already suffering the consequences. Again, their solution is to employ from abroad, from countries with good systems, again forcing British people into unemployment. The British establishment has failed the British people - it has failed to give them the opportunities for training and education and now has abandoned them in favour of foreign workers - which is a complete and total disgrace. I am not against employing foreign workers, but let us not do so whilst abandoning our own people! Another problem to consider is the fluidity of the capitalist market - demand for any profession, waxes and wanes and education and people cannot possibly adjust to these rapid changes, which is why employers MUST be prepared to retrain even well qualified people and to consider transferable skills as genuine. I hate to say it, but I believe that the government will not have the will or wisdom to get Britain out of this abominable mess, I fear the condition of this nation is terminal. British youth will be the underclass of tomorrow's EU.

  • Comment number 61.

    The Labour Party since the 60s has been hell bent on destroying any concept of academic excellence, witness the 'bog-standard' comprehensives and the abolition of Grammar schools. After that came the social engineering exemplified by Balls's version of the School Admission Code. But still it wasn't enough. So next, new vocational courses were created so that a 'Cake Making' course is worth 3 GCSEs and hey presto, academic schools suddenly fall down the league tables - because Maths or Physics is only 1 GCSE. But in parallel they raised a lot of false hopes, like expanding University places but without relating this to the employment prospects afterwards.

    Meanwhile, the Labour leadership seems to be entirely composed of Oxbridge PPE students who have only ever worked as political apparatchiks. The ultimate hypocricy.

    The real tragedy is that we NEED academic people but we also NEED non-academic people, practical people, skilled trades, shop workers, call centre workers etc etc. Crucially we also NEED to address the key issue of youth unemployment and not just by the sticking plaster approach of whatever scheme (from YOP in the 80s to the EMA today) is in vogue to keep the unemployment figures down. How to get young people on the employment ladder? Labour had 13 years and did nothing effective. No surprise there. Let's hope the coalition do better. It should be a top priority.

  • Comment number 62.

    Until the election (or non election) of the condemned government, health related work place courses such as safe handling of medicines, infection control and care of the mentally ill were funded by Train to Gain and the Learning Skills council at VRQ and NVQ levels.

    These courses were deemed exceptionally important and it was identified on a cross party basis that it was essential for staff in nursing ,residential and private hospitals as well as NHS hospitals to have these skills. So much so that such training was and remains a statutory requirement.

    The VRQ's and NVQ's provided were widely respected and were considered as suitable qualifications for career development opportunities.

    Odd then that the first action of the incoming condemns was to reduce funding not by the planned 40% already agreed but by 100%.

    Naturally there was nothing to indicate this U turn in either the Tory or the Lib Dems manifesto. Or indeed in the coalition agreement.

    Of course this has resulted in far lower take up as hard pressed organisations with funding being cut across the board look to make savings the first place they look is training. As while there is a statutory requirement to train there is no statutory requirement regarding how long you can wait before you actually do the training!

    The result of this will be lower standards of care,safety and competency.
    Together with the loss of income of thousands of work place assessors and tutors,often these people (myself included) work on a self employed basis so the income lost isn't mitigated by any form of redundancy payment and could not have been anticipated unless of course you were aware that the Tories and Liberals were lying before the election when they said these courses had their unqualified support!

    So much for life long learning and public health being at the forefront of the condemns plans.

  • Comment number 63.

    Don't they have vocational courses at all the best schools? Can't you see it at Eton, Harrow and Westminster, "How to be a Prime Minister part one"; "How to succeed your Dad as Chairman of the bank part three"; and "How to pay your tax in the Bahamas part five".

  • Comment number 64.

    Degrees, A-Levels, GCSE's etc are getting easier to pass, year on year. This is not heresay, it's true. Young people now are studing, at degree level, what we learnt at O-Level standard, in the 70's.
    It's time we looked at ALL the 'qualifications' in the UK and asked ourselves "Are they fit for purpose?", i.e. will they help people get jobs? The answer, for many of them, I suspect, will be a resounding "NO!".
    Let's stop this craze for degrees & replace them with practical apprenticeships where young people learn HOW to do the job as well as the theory behind it.
    Then, maybe, we'll have an effective workforce again.

  • Comment number 65.

    37. At 12:28pm on 03 Mar 2011, Stokkevn wrote:
    A proper vocational education for some kids is much better than a university degree, my plumber charges for emergencies £76.00 to arrive at your door and £75.00 per half hour or no call-out charge for non emergencies, he is very good and well worth the money as he is very good, most problems resolved within half an hour.

    With 3 years university and 35 years experience I only earn 75% of that so I sometimes wonder what the attraction of further education is


    Idiot, plumbers have as much maths & english knowledge as many university graduates and even MORE than many.

    You CANNOT become a qualified plumber without good understanding and knowledge of maths & English otherwise we'd have exploding houses & gas systems every day of the week.

    Thats the myth of so many ignorant muppets.

    So MANY jobs have a BASIC requirement of English & maths. Even to be a scaffolder you need reasonable maths to enable safe building of scaffolding structures which are designed for specific purposes with access points to attatch lifts and loading bays.

    Have you TRIED to READ a site drawing for errecting scaffolding, do you know what went into errecting the scaffolding in Docklands on those office blocks, or a drawing to install plumbing, or do you understand the various technical variances of different boilers and heating/water systems, do you understand what the technicalitys are of building a house or other structure with bricks & being able to read and comply with technical drawings and health & safety etc.

    Maybe with your 3 years university and 35 years experience & 75% of earnings of a plumber, you are possibly quite dumb in comparison to a plumber, which is why you earn less., & which is the WHOLE point of this discussion which is the fact that 35 years of dumbness will earn you LESS than a few years of GOOD education in a MORE economically/financially better trade and that present high school vocational courses do NOT train/qualify you to become a plumber, but provide you with qualification and skill levels which are LARGELY WORTHLESS.

  • Comment number 66.

    We need to face reality, that our eductaional system as at present is not fit for purpose, they have too much say about what education is needed, yet the buisness sector if it is to proceed efficiently, needs to take the lead with what the expect from the work place to deliver.

    I am fortunate to have a degree in along with a professional qualification in nursing, and although now retired, I have often wondered how much better off I would be financialy if I had taken another career away from health a lot less stressful less public pressure to achieve with little recognition, of what I actualy did. Several of my school colleagues took that path, and now in the upper tax bracket, financial security, several properties to live from proceeds from, yet their educational standards are well below mine. Have little knowledge about good health, and living in a state that rewards those that do not bother, I often ask why?

  • Comment number 67.

    What do we need as a country?
    We have a certain and definite requirement for people to do REAL work, making things, building things, maintaining things. This is NOT theoretical work it does not require a degree it requires different (and in my opinion - despite my degree) more important skills.
    Moreover we have a number of people in this country who thrive on REAL work not theoretical paper shuffling. My own son for example is dyslexic, he can do and does enjoy doing more vocational things. He should be given the chance to do that at school, to excel at those things at school and gain credit for them. He will then go on to use those skills in the real world and do something very useful for society.

    What is the alternative?

    In my sons case you force him to do academic subjects - and he will fail, he will achieve nothing at school and so become bored and disruptive. He will be labelled a failure. He will then have nothing useful at the end of school and will end up unemployed and probably a criminal.

    NOT everyone is cut out to do a degree. Not everyone is cut out to excel at shuffling paper. Yet we have a NEED a desparate need judging by our bringing in thousands of Polish to fill in vocational jobs in building and manufacturing for people who are not academic.

    When I was a child this country was FAR more prosperous, had much higher employment, much lower taxes, less cuts, more armed forces, more support for people, the old didn't need to spend their life savings on care, pensions fed and kept them warm, we did this because 5-10% went to university and did the courses and work required of academics, the 90-95% of the rest of the population went on to do something truely useful and MADE things which we SOLD and made REAL profit from.

    You can have the banks rip consumers off and pretend all is well, but you can see from the mess our pupblic finances, defence, support for the least well off and massive taxes just what that has done for us.

    We should encourage vocational courses, we should discourage degrees.

    Don't forget:
    a) Brunel, Telford etc. built bridges, railways, ships etc. without a degree, they are still with us.
    b) The millenium bridge was a fantasic on paper construction by a theoretically brilliant guy with masses of degress etc. which had to be closed the day it was opened because it needed a REAL engineer to fix its problems!

    I have a degree, and frankly haven't used a single word from it in 30 years of working.

  • Comment number 68.

    37. At 12:28pm on 03 Mar 2011, Stokkevn wrote:
    A proper vocational education for some kids is much better than a university degree, my plumber charges for emergencies £76.00 to arrive at your door and £75.00 per half hour or no call-out charge for non emergencies, he is very good and well worth the money as he is very good, most problems resolved within half an hour.

    With 3 years university and 35 years experience I only earn 75% of that so I sometimes wonder what the attraction of further education is


    Looks like HMRC are catching up with the attraction of plumbing though:

    [From Accountancy Age]
    Plumbers will be subject to the next tax disclosure agreement set up by HM Revenue & Customs.

    The plumbers' tax safe plan (PTSF) agreement allows people in the profession and the associated trades to declare their unpaid taxes for the past five years. The penalties will be 10% for careless errors and 20% for deliberate defaulters.

    HMRC has said that it does not have specific information about plumbers' accounts, unlike its previous disclosure agreements, which have focused on the medical profession, offshore accounts and accounts in Liechtenstein.

  • Comment number 69.

    God this HYS has depressed me greatly. I did a vocational course in college, 2 years of ICT and a year of Media studies. I have left college and don't have any other courses I really want to do. Not to be funny but I don't want to do brick laying, plumbing or something else for the hell of it because others do.

    I have learning difficulties which made it hard for me in school and college as it is. I have passed ICT and got merits for Media so where do I stand in this?

  • Comment number 70.

    So kids are doing "vocational" training for "vocations" that don't exist?

    And doing degree courses for careers that don't exist?

    Well that's a Labour legacy for you.

  • Comment number 71.

    I'm a lecturer currently working in the FE sector, where we run a lot of vocational courses.
    The government make it very difficult for us to run any other type of course because the funding, the stuff we live on, is biased towards these courses.
    Do they lead to jobs, I personally don't think so. I have 40 students studying a games programming course. One of the most popular 'courses' currently on offer. By my estimate, come June, the country will have produced around 4 to 5,000, so called 'games programmers' for an industry that employs about 4 to 5,000 in total. You work out the maths!
    We run courses to make money, we don't run courses to produce the work force for the future!!!!!
    It's wrong, everybody in education at this level knows it's wrong, but the government do it their way. We can only provide courses to the government, who set the price, and how it will be delivered. We comply, or go under.
    We SHOULD be providing those course that will help to develop the country's wealth and standing in the world. But we don't.
    We SHOULD be encouraging students to develop their knowledge, to improve their job prospects, but as one student pointed out to me yesterday "... what's the point! there are no jobs"
    We do need to get to grips with the education of this country, too long it has been based on targets which teachers try to meet, but we talking about living human beings with minds of their own, not cans of beans or TV sets. If they won't learn or don't like what's on offer, they vote with their feet, and colleges lose staff and shut down.
    The country,parents(particularly), teachers and government need to make it quite clear what is expected of our young people, provide the proper resources (not cut them by 12%) and educate them accordingly.
    Of course this doesn't happen when you go to Eton!!!

  • Comment number 72.

    The question is a bit confusing because the the experts are saying don't teach vocationals studies until they're 16 and the comment is about 16 -19 years old. Firstly all children should be given a basic education up to 16 and vocational studies should be linked to a career. Why would they lead to university if the students were academically inclined they would study 'A' levels anyway. Part of the concern is having jobs at the end of the studies what ever route you take and it goes back to a system that seemed to work years ago but educationalists had to tinker with it. Although I'm concerned about youth unemployment it's reached a 5 year high in 2005-6 things supposedly were as good as they've ever been and now we've just gone back to that level in a recession. What it says is there's been a fundamnetal problem which governments have failed to address with the youth and we need to build an economy that embraces all sectors of society.

  • Comment number 73.

    If vocational training courses are not leading to eventual employment they are failing. As far as I'm concerned, it really is that simple.

    In addition, we are sending too many young people to university. You don't need a degree to do most jobs. Young people are being encouraged to burden themselves with debt for very little real gain. How many graduates end-up working in call centres? I'm sure we'd all be surprised to find-out. If the previous government hadn't pursued this mad target of sending 50% of 18 year-olds to university, I can well imagine that there would have been no need to increase tuition fees recently. We are spending all this money simply to allow the govenment, of whichever hue that may be, to massage the figures and claim that our youngsters are ever more better qualified and better educated. They may be better qualified, but the vast majority are very much less well educated.

  • Comment number 74.

    This is all caused by the skewed incentives within the education system as it acts as if the state is the customer, rather than the children and parents.
    Get the state out of education; out of dictating "quality" measures, out of "targets" and out of the organisation process for schools - put a few simple stipulations on how you want taxpayer money to be spent (3Rs should cover it) and let the market in education do the rest.

  • Comment number 75.

    Vocational training leading to university? Vocational training is intended to lead to a job, of which there are presently very few. We need to decide what is to happen to those of us who will not have jobs in at least the medium term. Pretending that everyone should spend all their time running around after a very limited number of jobs is unhelpful, unrealistic and, for those in government suggesting it downright pathetic.

  • Comment number 76.

    So if hairdressing, motor mechanics, brick laying etc aren't to be taught as vocational courses anymore what's the alternative? Yet another degree course that no one can afford?

    Not everyone is intellectual. Many have the aptitude for physical and creative work, rather than academia. Funny thing is - they tend to be the kinds of jobs that have to be done in situ and cannot be outsourced or taken abroad.

    There's probably room for a bit of shake up and some standards setting, so I think Lord Baker's plans are laudable. Had technical schools still existed when my lads were growing up I would have definitely sent them there.

    BTW - haven't those who think that those currently on vocational courses won't get a job noticed that there's a distinct lack of jobs to go round, regardless of qualifications and ability?

  • Comment number 77.

    Why can't the politicians stop tinkering.
    They are bloody useless and they've destroyed education at all levels in this country.
    The solution is simple.
    Roll the clock back 25 years and run education the same as it was back then.
    It worked back then, and it didn't need the political meddling.
    Apprentices for trades. HNDs for more technical work such a lab technicians, dental prosthetics, photographic processes and eye glasses.
    There were no 'mickey mouse' vocational courses 25 years ago.

  • Comment number 78.

    22. At 12:09pm on 03 Mar 2011, yorkshire News wrote:
    They have replaced what was a couple of hours on the job training with an old hand in to a long drawn out training programme run by educationalist who can not do the job themselves.
    They have lead to a work force of unskilled, untrained, useless future employees, with nothing but a bit of paper to offer.
    Bring back apprenticeships under the guidance of skilled workers and we will see old skills passed down, instead of an intellectuals interpretation of them and a lump of useless paper to say you turned up to listen.
    Those who can do, those who can not, teach
    Don't fully agree with the last line, but on the whole this is the truth. As an employer I am obliged to spend thousands on ensuring I have enough staff 'trained' to NVQ standard. The local council spends thousands on providing these courses. The people who go on them learn absolutely nothing that they don't learn in their first morning at work.

    The government should give this money to the employer to pay an apprentice's wages (similar to YTS but at higher than £30-£40 per week) with the employer contributing as well. VOCATIONAL TRAINING SHOULD BE DONE IN THE WORKPLACE! Look at Germany and consider why they are still manufacturing and exporting high quality goods, even with the emergence of China etc. We can't blame it all on cheap foreign labour. And to those who say there aren't enough jobs, I say, why do all of the people who apply for my (admittedly just above minimum wage) jobs come from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe? But that's a whole other issue...

  • Comment number 79.

    Get back to the "old days" of HNC, HND, and similar levels of qualifications for technical, sciences, etc. In the 1970's there were oodles of courses available in these categories, it allowed young people to work full time and study (HNC) once a week, or work full time and do a block release (HND) study system. Good quality course content, demanding, satisfying; many did them, including myself. Thoroughly recommend a return to something that WORKED properly.

  • Comment number 80.

    55. At 12:51pm on 03 Mar 2011, RightWingIDBanned wrote:
    YeT AnoTher Post FROM mr Wonderful REALITY that I CANT be bothered TO read because all THE unnecessary CAPITAL letters give ME headache.

    Is there a vocational course on shift key skills?


    The relevent knowledge is but a click away: BBcode

  • Comment number 81.

    This is what happens when you have league tables. Schools are so single-minded in their pursuit of their league table position, that they have 'invented' ridiculous quasi-vocational GNVQ qualifications, some supposedly worth 4 GCSE grade C's. How they wangled that one, I don't know! They are a complete cop-out for the less able students, and, worse, they sucker in the better ones who might otherwise have gone on to apply themselves academically. Still, no-one's complaining. The students get an easy life and one of these plus another GCSE and it's 'job done' for the school as well. Another student through the production line with 5 or more A-C grades. Pats on the back all round.

    Trouble is, these GNVQs are neither academically nor vocationally rigorous. They are often taught by academic teachers with no real-world experience outside teaching, and are useless to both universities and future employers. The schools, examination boards and education authorities have sold their souls, and ruined a generation of children, in the pursuit of... what, exactly?? Bragging rights? My school's got a better league rating than yours?? It's utter madness. And our children are now paying the price. They are leaving school unfit for work or university. Many universities have dumbed down their degrees, and the better ones can't distiguish the genuinely bright young people in a crowd of hopefuls all waving A and A* grades. For those hoping to find a job after school, they find that companies would rather employ a properly-educated foreigner than a British young person. A look at the unemployment stats will confirm this. Employers do not trust schools. Many employers (and I speak from experience) are appalled at the standard of some young people who apply for jobs. It isn't the fault of the young people - they are simply unprepared for life after school. They have been offered easy options all the time by a self-serving education system that is constantly lowering the bar to enable everyone to trot over it with ease.

  • Comment number 82.

    Re: posting 20. Sorry but I have to disagree. True that our manufacturing base has shrunk but to say we don't make anything is well wide of the truth. Manufacturing in Britain still employs millions of people. I'm about the same age as you and whilst some apprenticeships in the 1960's and 70's were too long they did prepare youngsters for a life in industry. They gave on the job work training to pick up existing skills and processes alongside day release to technical colleges where they mixed with youngsters from other companies and could exchange and pick up new ideas. The employer's training department and the college's tutors controlled attendance and monitored performance tightly. At the end of it was a fairly rounded although inexperienced youngster who could then work alongside an older operative to become a craftsman in his/her own right. We have lost so much in the trendy move away from apprenticeships to NVQ's and the like.

  • Comment number 83.

    Why don't vocational courses lead to a job? Either employers don't trust them because they're not good enough, or because the employers are ignorant. So the answer is to improve the quality of the vocational courses, or educate employers.

  • Comment number 84.

    I went to a Grammar school in the 70's and was reasonably academic and gained good 0 level grades however I left at 16 to take up a 4 year Technician/Technologist apprenticeship with a good middle sized company.

    At the time many of my friends stayed on at school to pursue A levels and thought I was daft to do this.

    The firm I worked for not only gave me very good indentured training in all departments of the company but also sent me to Technical college which they also were prepared to extend past the end of my apprenticeship at my request to further my education.

    I ended up as a senior design engineer with the company and stayed with them for another 6 years.
    I now run a small but reasonably successful technology based company.

    Whilst at tech. college there were many the same as me whose companies encouraged them too.

    To me it seems that there are many problems associated due to companies not wanting to properly train their workers and added to this a government which is not willing to offer any subsidies for training to companies.
    Back in th 70's there was funding for EITB,ONC,HNC and the like and good Technical colleges with good lecturers who were not 'second rate' when compared to University,it seems now there are'nt.

    I have in the past and presently had to recruit technical staff and find it difficult to judge them by their qualifications, in fact some of the best qualified candidates seem to me utterly useless when tested and interviewed.

    I also see a certain arrogance and sense of entitlement today that was never evident in the past with newly qualified people and to me it appears that they have high expectations and blind ambition purely based on their academic qualifications rather than the willingness to graft,contribute and carry on learning.

  • Comment number 85.

    I need to point out – your question or the report does not make any sense. Here is why: a quarter and a third of 16 to 19-year-olds are on courses…

    Then later…

    The report is calling for changes to school league tables so some vocational qualifications are not counted and recommend that pupils study a core of academic subjects until they are 16.

    So what age group are you talking about? 16 to 19 year olds or those under 16 that do vocational courses instead of academic studies and are timetabled differently? Without knowing this every hard to make any judgement.

  • Comment number 86.

    Things need to change.

    Our education system is not producing the literate, numerate, well-trained workforce the country needs.

    The idea of sending half our young people to university is utter stupidity, the result of group think among government and in the likes of the BBC which makes 'social mobility' the sole aim of education.

    Listen to any BBC coverage of education - quality and real results don't get a mention. It's all about 'social mobility'.

    This report sounds about right. Get schools to turn out literate and numerate children. Send most of them on good, demanding, vocational training. Make university the preserve of those subjects and students for which it is appropriate.

    Let's restrict the numbers at university, increase the standards, scrap fees, re-introduce grants, and send most foreign students home.

  • Comment number 87.

    "Should vocational courses in England change"? is the HYS question.

    What happens in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

    However, recommend:

    post 09 @ 11:47am on 03 March 2011 - 'Tio Terry'
    post 24 @ 12:12pm on 03 March 2011 - 'drcarol'

    Our twins were born in 1983, and they both got Saturday jobs at 15, while still at school, with local shops because they wanted to earn money for stuff, as evil parents, we refused to pay for. They were good kids before - but working improved their confidence and maturity. They also obtained references from their employers as part of their submissions for university places.

    Yes, they did choose go on to university, and qualified in their chosen professions. Equally, they also worked while at university to meet their share of rent, utilities etc., in a shared student house - paid tax and NI on their jobs.

    So the moral of the story is - would many more children at school benefit from some kind of paid employment on weekends to boost their confidence or improve or widen their life skills? If their self-obsessed friends don't like it - then they are not real friends?

  • Comment number 88.

    I agree with no. 56 Megan

    I'm also a teacher who teaches Biology A level and the vocational exams (BTEC's now and in the past GNVQ/AVCE's). We carefully guide the students to select which approach suits them best to allow them to achieve. Without the vocational courses many students would struggle to continue with the sciences due to the simple fact that science A levels are hard.

    Those who take the BTEC often continue onto degrees, generally vocationally based, such as the student in my class who got offered a place on a nursing degree just yesterday based on her predicted BTEC qualifications. It is unlikely she would have passed A levels depriving the NHS of a potentially excellent nurse if BTEC's were not available.

    What vocational exams need is more support (predominately in the media) and more respect.

    The only issue I have with them is that they have the same UCAS points as A levels and seeing as we often drop failing A level students onto the BTEC course which they go onto pass, it does make a mockery of the system. However, that is not a fault in the vocational exams but in the points system and league tables.

  • Comment number 89.

    Not all children are predisposed to do academic subjects, never have done and never will do. Vocational subjects of all kinds are much more suited to these children.

    Fine, you have to make sure that children can read, write and do simple arithmetic by the time they leave school. Those that have the ability to take GCSE's, A Levels and go to University should be encouraged to do so whatever background they come from, but don't dump the rest of them on the scrapheap as they are the pupils who will do well on vocational courses.

    Vocational courses will always have a use in the workplace, just like higher education and degrees - it is just a different workplace that's all.

  • Comment number 90.

    It doesn’t take `education expert’, Professor Alison Wolf ££££ to `find ‘ that out.
    Most college lecturers are onto a good thing, a FAT wage to fund their Liberal habits.
    The `education’ industry ££££ says the `right’ things, ticks ALL the boxes, bends over backwards for `diversity’ etc. but for the most part its just a highly paid, back slapping talking shop.
    Youngster ARE being let down, often the E.M.A funding leads to students `making up’ a full time package in order to get the meagre E.M.A payment. The REAL winners are the College £££ and the lecturers

  • Comment number 91.

    What use is an "ology" when you can't get a job. This country concentrates on ticking boxes and looking good instead of giving a proper education and being good. Our children and our country are doomed!

    I despair at the professionals running our junior school who think they are the bees knees when in reality they would struggle to run a burger stand.

    I rest my case.

  • Comment number 92.

    If students are proving to be a complete flop, throwing their toys out of their prams over weekly fees and whining about not getting enough first-team tuition, they ought to be allowed a transfer to other courses during summer and winter windows.

    Those on the course at the end of the term who finish top of the league table for their school/college, should then be promoted to a higher league, maybe competing against the finest in Europe the following term.

    The uninterested who inversely drag their school/college to the bottom of the league, would be relegated, to compete amongst 'special schools' located on derelict council estates.

    Then they all retire before the age of twenty, to live a life on benefits, because ultimately, all the forrinurs on wages of 20p an hour have taken all of their jobs.

    Education, education, education....It's a funny old game.

  • Comment number 93.

    Both parties are guilty of using education to hide high unemployment figures within the young generations.

    I cringe at the quality of the education of many of the younger generation that I come into contact and it is very obvious that the breadth and depth of their education is very poor compared to my own in the 1960’s

    I also believe the Joanna Lumley is correct in that we do not give children the opportunity to have responsibility and that we hide them from real life for far too long so when they come across it many have little idea of what is right or wrong.

    The reality is, unless they do something about getting youth unemployment down then in five or ten years’ time there will be a real serious work ethic and skills problem although by ignoring our youth the way they do we could see what has happened in North Africa arrive at our shores before then.

  • Comment number 94.

    It doesn’t take `education expert’, Professor Alison Wolf ££££ to `find ‘ that out.
    Most college lecturers are onto a good thing, a FAT wage to fund their Liberal habits.
    The `education’ industry ££££ says the `right’ things, ticks ALL the boxes, bends over backwards for `diversity’ etc. but for the most part its just a highly paid, back slapping talking shop.
    Youngster ARE being let down, often the E.M.A funding leads to students `making up’ a full time package in order to get the meagre E.M.A payment. The REAL winners are the College £££ and the lecturers

  • Comment number 95.

    60. At 1:00pm on 03 Mar 2011, TruthBot wrote:
    but what about courses like forensic science?

    A sneaky way of getting students to study chemistry. Clearly very few actually go onto to work in the forensics industry but getting them to study chemistry can't be all bad.

  • Comment number 96.

    I remember YTS which meant cheap/slave labour for employers when the young people had served their time they were kicked out to be replaced with the next group of cheap/slave labour

  • Comment number 97.

    Another issue which has 'spannered' education in Britain is the debate on how to assess students. Vocational courses traditionally use continuous assessment in which the teacher assesses their skills in practice and in written work and is 'trusted' to be fair. I say 'trusted' because exam boards to check all or some of the work, but here is yet another problem - the syllabuses are often poorly and hastily drafted and offer vague instructions as to what the teacher should teach and what the students should know and how this is to be graded. Now, most teachers are good enough to know what is good and what is poor work, but they are under pressure from their management, who are in turn pressured by Ofsted (which executes government will, despite claims of its 'independence') to obtain good pass rates! Add to this the fact the teachers are working with a student who say needs two distinctions and a merit to get to their chosen university and a clear conflict of interest arises. Most teachers find compromises by meeting students half-way and most do a phenomenally good job of resisting the pressures that squeeze them from all sides, but when things go wrong the teacher gets the blame (not the student and not the exam board whose instructions were so vague as to be almost useless in the first place). Exam boards are also keen for their courses to have high pass rates, since the government expects this. Also consider assignment-based courses - teachers may be faced with over 1000 lengthy scripts to mark! Clearly they can at best impression or skim mark. Teachers are grotesquely and immorally overworked, which is why so few quality textbooks are being written these days. every 5 years or so the exam boards change their syllabuses, and yet it may take 5 years for textbooks specific to their syllabuses to actually appear in print! Thus the books are obsolete as soon as they appear! Teachers often have to work with no resources whatsoever! However, they do not have the time to keep re-inventing the wheel when they have 26 hours or more of contact time and paperwork to do for the IfL and their lesson observations and their interfering managers and over 1000 scripts to mark!! The system has been set-up to fail! despite this, the valiant efforts of teachers maintains a good standard with one shortcoming. Many universities are now refusing to accept vocational qualifications since these are assignment-based and degrees are exam-based and vocational students have insufficient practice in, or a fear of, exams! Hence, they often tend to perform poorly at university. Exams are important - students can get help (from students and staff and the Internet) to produce a good essay or other piece of written work without understanding the contents. Often they do understand well but since they have sat no exams they have not been forced to commit facts to memory and so understand in a transient fashion and rapidly forget the meaning of what they have written! However, exams pose another serious problem - employers and universities take grades at face value. The difference between a B and an A may literally be one mark and this may depend on the examiner doing the marking! Clearly, students who obtain good grades have done well (though sometimes good students may obtain bad grades for various reasons, such as flawed revision technique or lack of nerves) however, using grades (and indeed university league tables) as accurate and absolute measures to hair-split is fundamentally flawed. B-grade students may, in the end, become better practitioners than A-grade students - not necessarily, but the may do. In the end, the best approach would seem to be half exam-based and half coursework-based. However, this also has its problems! Vocational courses trust the teachers to do the grading with some external verification, which generally works well and is in fact probably as accurate/reliable as exam grading for the aforementioned reasons. However, when distinguishing A's and B's discrepancies will inevitably appear between teachers and between colleges - especially as guidelines are often utterly vague 9literally a teacher may be asked to decide what is 'good' and what is 'very good'). Again, the fault lies with employers and universities who expect a definitive measure of a person's ability, when none can be obtained. At best a crude indication can only be given. A-level boards try to be more rigorous, but this burdens teachers too heavily and many colleges opt-out of syllabuses with coursework components. Many employers try to get around these problems by setting their own little tests in interviews. however, this is very deeply flawed! Take computer programming as an example. At a typical interview they will ask a set of questions that test factual recall, rather than assessing problem-solving ability or other higher-skills. These questions will often test what an employer considers basic and essential knowledge. However, many employers use old technologies or focus on very specific types of programming and what may be obvious to them will not necessarily be at the fingerprints of a graduate who has studied computer programming in its many facets - chances are they have forgotten since they sat their exams, overwhelmed by the quantity and newness of the information - it is far easier to recall something that a person has used day-in and day-out. Employers are often astonished when good candidates fail to answer their (very specific) questions, when these people are very able, but fresh from university with their heads full of massive amounts of information which they have yet to consolidate by years of practice. The best candidates may fail to do these allegedly 'basic tasks' when put on the spot, but would soon become proficient when put on the job. Similarly, a great mathematician may slip-up on a simple numeracy test that requires long-division, since this algorithm is taught in schools but not used thereafter - why should it be? A maths degree involves far more complicated things and a pocket calculator can do the donkey-work. thus, many claims from employers about candidates with degrees not being able to do the basics, stem from unfair assessment. a good mathematician may be rusty on long-division but could pick it up again within minutes if given prior warning! Again -employers should focus on general ability and not expect a newcomer to already be an expert in what they do every day.

  • Comment number 98.

    I work as part of a competence assurance team for a very large construction company. We deliver (internally) several hundred NVQs a year in construction-related competencies, accredited by City & Guilds/CAA. Our company wins work because we are prepared to upskill our workforce and the VQs are a valuable measuring tool for clients to assess the competency of our workforce.
    If youngsters were to learn valuable and transferable skills at school, it would make recruitment of partially-skilled workers so much easier, and reduce the drain on our dwindling training resources; but may put me out of a job!!!
    The skills they learn through vocational training MUST be based upon current and future employment/economic climates. Teaching kids garbage like media studies, tourist industry, arts & leisure is not really going to cut it in the REAL world.

  • Comment number 99.

    #61. At 1:01pm on 03 Mar 2011, jacko wrote:
    The Labour Party since the 60s has been hell bent on destroying any concept of academic excellence, witness the 'bog-standard' comprehensives and the abolition of Grammar schools. After that came the social engineering exemplified by Balls's version of the School Admission Code. But still it wasn't enough. So next, new vocational courses were created so that a 'Cake Making' course is worth 3 GCSEs and hey presto, academic schools suddenly fall down the league tables - because Maths or Physics is only 1 GCSE. But in parallel they raised a lot of false hopes, like expanding University places but without relating this to the employment prospects afterwards.


    Since when was 'cake making' a course that was worth 3 GCSE's, when a cookery course is worth 1 GCSE - where is your proof.

    During the last 13 years of Labour government, more students have graduated from University than ever before. So much so, that there are more graduates out there than there are proper graduate type jobs for them do.

    Getting back to the subject of Vocational courses - these types of courses were never created to lead to higher education or University, they were originally created to help students who were not academically minded into a type of work they could do after leaving school.

  • Comment number 100.

    To my critics yes I do think education is important but how many times and in how many guises are we going to discuss this subject.

    Courses need to be relevant in today's society but asking youngsters to do courses which do not provide them with a means to gain employment is frankly a waste of everyones time. Giving them a piece of paper at the end of the course with no prospect of employment will not at the end of the day do anything for their self esteem.

    Someone needs to sit down and give this serious rational consideration and stop it as a means to massage unemployment figures.


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