From education to employment

A boost for vocational education?

Earlier this month, Matthew Hancock and Michael Gove took a step towards raising the status of vocational courses in England with the launch of the technical baccalaureate. The tech bacc will be a performance measure for schools and evidence of credible, work-related skills for students, as opposed to a qualification in its own right.

Recognising technical education in this way is a great start to ensuring that young people interested in a career in areas such as engineering, construction and information technology can leave the education system with the knowledge that they have the employer-friendly skills that the economy is after. Good quality vocational qualifications are on a par with A-Levels; they lead to opportunities in further and higher education, apprenticeships and, of course, brilliant careers. At Edge we are committed to championing technical, practical and vocational learning and so we are delighted that the government is acknowledging the value and importance of it in this way; it is certainly a step in the right direction.

However, there is a long way to go until vocational education achieves the parity with academic routes it deserves and even the tech bacc could go further.

Firstly, from 2015 all young people will stay in education or training until they are 18, so it would be better to introduce an over-arching leaving diploma which recognises all general and vocational qualifications gained between the ages of 14 and 18.

Secondly, there is more to education than qualifications. We need to recognise both work experience and the wider skills young people need when they move on to further learning and work, such as teamwork and problem-solving.

Finally, we also need to recognise level 2 technical and vocational qualifications, especially when taken as part of a broad and balanced curriculum alongside English, maths and work experience.

Over the next decade, we are going to be faced with growing skills shortages as baby boomers start to retire. We desperately need more young people to choose stretching technical and vocational courses. The government is therefore absolutely right to emphasise high standards, high quality and high status for every path to success. It is also why Edge backs an annual celebration of vocational success. This year’s VQ Day takes place on 5 June and will showcase a rainbow of talent across all ages and careers.

Nominations for the VQ Learner and Employer of the Year awards are open until Friday 3rd May and forms can be downloaded here.

Jan Hodges is chief executive of Edge, the independent education foundation dedicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning

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