From education to employment

Hands-on, career-focused qualifications are more important than ever before

Rod Bristow, President of Pearson UK

Unprecedented technological changes are disrupting the global economy and transforming jobs. At the same time, as an education company, we’re engaged in a growing debate about how education can provide route to a good career. One thing is clear; hands-on career-focused qualifications are more important than ever before.

The workforce of today looks very different from the workforce of tomorrow. Technologies such as artificial intelligence and automation are transforming the way we work and live, and the global economy will demand thinkers who can act and work effectively with others, and practitioners who can think.

Students want an education route that is right for them. With rising university fees and growing concern about the effectiveness of more traditional education routes, students are more conscious than ever before of the need to gain valuable employability skills in the most efficient way possible.

Indeed, recent YouGov polling shows just a quarter UK adults considering university as the best way of getting a better start in life, compared to a third who believe young people are better off going straight into work.

We must face these challenges head on. This means collaborating with industry and universities to develop FE programmes that equip students with the skills needed to progress into employment, or into employment via higher education. At Pearson, our BTEC qualifications are developed in conjunction with employers and universities.

BTEC represents a ‘learn by doing’ approach that produces confident, individuals who know how to work in a team. By blending academic with practical learning, students gain the practical knowledge and technical skills needed by global economy, where industries do not just value what people know but also what they can do.

Through BTEC, Pearson employees have had the privilege of helping millions of people make progress in their lives through a combination of academic and practical learning. It’s a model perfectly suited to the next 30 years, as jobs change and as the combination of knowing and doing becomes ever more important.

Despite the power of BTEC, it’s nevertheless true that it’s a learning pathway not as well understood as A level.

So we hope that awards that celebrate the power of BTEC– and the teaching that underpins it – will make a difference. That’s why we organise the BTEC annual awards ceremony.

The 2018 BTEC Awards – held last Thursday (5th July) – was a fantastic showcase of our brilliant BTEC students and teachers.

This year’s overall winner – Rachna Udasi – is a great example of how career-focused education can set students up for success. The knowledge and skills she has gained through her BTEC National Diploma in Business, combined with her dedication to support others, has enabled her to establish her own successful local coffee businesses.

Rachna takes coffee beans from a community in Africa, which she ships across to the UK, packages up and sells to local coffee shops. Profits and proceeds are sent back to the community in Africa. Her dream is to become a successful entrepreneur and inspire others. Some would argue this dream has already been achieved.

Rachna’s inspirational story is just one of the many told at last week’s BTEC Awards. It was an emotional occasion in which the power of learning was celebrated with great energy.

And while learning for its own sake is good for all, BTEC represents learning that matters. Learning that helps young and older learners make the progress in their lives that they want.

In the coming years, many more will follow in Rachna and the other award winners’ footsteps.

None of this is possible without the fantastic support and commitment of the FE sector, which does a superb job – still too little celebrated.


We hope the BTEC awards go some way to redressing that.

Rod Bristow is President of Pearson UK – the guardian of the BTEC qualification for the past 30 years

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