From education to employment

Apprenticeships and beyond

National Apprenticeship Week took place in March and once again proved to be a nationwide success. The week is all about demonstrating that Apprenticeships are great for businesses, personal careers and creating opportunities for both employers and apprentices. As champions of technical, practical and vocational learning the Edge Foundation is proud support it.

We were thrilled to learn that over 20,000 apprenticeship vacancies were pledged during the campaign. The amount of support and engagement it garnered around the country was phenomenal and is a huge boost for our mission to raise the status of vocational routes.

The noise created by campaigns such as this, provides an excellent platform to highlight the benefits of these routes and reinforce our message that there are many paths to success. Our own VQ Day celebrations in June continue to spread the word. In recognising those individuals who achieve success by making vocational choices, as well as the teachers and employers who encourage and provide these choices, we hope that more people are inspired to consider paths they may not have previously.

Frustratingly, in research carried out to mark the launch of VQ Day we found that many learners are being actively discouraged from taking more practical pathways. Young people have natural aptitudes and interests and to deny those who may be better at making and doing the choice of an education that involves this way of learning is both detrimental to the individual, and counterproductive to the economy as a whole. Lord Baker authored a report recently entitled The Skills Mismatch, which comprehensively explains the disconnect that exists between the education system of our country and the needs of the British economy. What we want to see is an education system that deals with this disconnect. We need to ensure that ‘learning by doing’ is valued equally with academic learning so that young people are not driven away from high quality choices based on an unjust and outdated stigma. University Technical Colleges, Studio Schools and Career Colleges are helping to do this and there are hundreds of FE colleges and independent training providers up and down the country which continue to provide great examples of best practice when it comes to vocational education.

Recognising and celebrating vocational excellence is what VQ Day is all about and we are encouraging schools, colleges and learning providers to add their voice to the cause. There are many ways to get involved and the website provides a wealth of information about holding events, applying for funding, and nominating for the VQ Awards – the deadline for which is 2nd May.

We will continue to strive for an education system that ensures all young people, whatever their different abilities and interests, leave the system with confidence, ambition, the skills to succeed and the skills the economy needs.

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

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