From education to employment

Celebrating VQ Day 2012

Last week we celebrated the 5th annual VQ Day. It was a fantastic day with schools, colleges, learning providers and other organisations taking part across the country to recognise the value of vocational qualifications and celebrate achievement across the country.

At London’s prestigious BAFTA, Dave Hughes was named ‘VQ Learner of the Year 2012’ by Dr Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Lord Baker, Chairman of the Edge Foundation.

As one of the judges, I was impressed with Dave’s achievements, including the highest

distinction possible in his National Diploma in Art and Design, his entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to supporting the careers of upcoming designers.  High quality vocational qualifications are essential to UK society, providing young people with the skills, experience, motivation and inspiration to get ahead – Dave Hughes is truly a worthy winner.

Representatives from across the education sector gathered to celebrate VQ Day, created by the Edge Foundation to raise the status of technical, practical and vocational learning.  Aside from the awards, we were treated to first-hand demonstrations ranging from forensic science by City and Islington College and aerospace engineering by Exeter College, to tasty macaroons from the catering team at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College.

Elsewhere in the UK events included York College and Blackpool College holding their own Vocational Qualifications Awards Ceremonies, Lincolnshire Regional College and the Grimsby Institute invited members of the public to tour the workshops, kitchens and salons to see the work of the students and Walsall College’s Open Day where students showcased their talents at a series of workshops.

Celebrating these achievements can’t be underestimated.  While many of us know how important practical and technical learning is, there is still a way to go before vocational qualifications get the recognition they deserve.  Recent research* by Edge found that one third of young learners said VQs had never been presented to them as a career path while 77 per cent felt their school actively discouraged the vocational route.

Worryingly, further research** among teachers found that only 28 % of them described their knowledge of Apprenticeships as good or very good.  Excluding teachers and lecturers working in further education colleges, the figure is even lower: only 22% of teachers in secondary schools and sixth form colleges say their knowledge of Apprenticeships is good or better.  This compares to only 7% of teachers who described their knowledge of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees as poor or very poor.

Young people often look to teachers for information and advice.  If teachers don’t know about Apprenticeships and vocational qualifications, there’s a real risk they’ll guide young people towards the qualifications they know best – the academic route.

In this tough economic climate it’s essential to recognise that there are many paths to success and appreciate the value that vocational qualifications bring to learners, businesses and wider society.  Only with appropriately skilled and trained people can we drive forward the UK economy.

The VQ Day 2012 team would like to say a huge thank you to everybody who has thrown their support behind this year’s celebrations.

For further information about events across the UK please visit

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

*The research was carried out by ResearchBods among 500 A-Level students in their second year of study between 22nd – 25th March 2012.

**Influencers &VC: The 4 Year Report, June 2012 by YouGov.  Total Sample size: 1015 Teachers and FE Lecturers in Britain.


Related Articles

Promises, Possibilities & Political Futures…

Tristan Arnison discusses the main UK parties’ education policies for the upcoming election. While specifics vary, common themes emerge around curriculum reform, skills training, and…