From education to employment

Link established between low levels of vocational education and high levels of youth unemployment


A recent report, commissioned by independent education charity, the Edge Foundation, has established a link between low take-up of vocational courses in Britain and high levels of youth unemployment.

In the UK, one in five (21%) young people were out of work in 2012 in contrast to just 9.5% in the Netherlands. Interestingly, in the UK only 32% chose vocational options in upper secondary education compared with 67% in the Netherlands. Is this link significant?

This report interested me as it’s a topic that I’ve explored in the past. I believe that there is certainly a lot we can learn from continental style education and the approach they take to vocational training.

Take Switzerland as an example – a country with one of the most successful apprenticeship systems in the world and a resultant youth unemployment figure of just 7.5%. It’s interesting to see how our European neighbours have embraced alternative pathways to employment and the challenge for the sector is whether the UK can replicate the model with the same success.

Of course, a lot of work has already been done in raising the status of vocational qualifications in the UK – apprenticeships have recently seen a marked rise in applications and there has been substantial government investment in this area. However, there is still more work to be done in improving the status of vocational qualifications.

Time and time again, employers say that they need applicants who understand the world of work and who have the core, transferable skills that they need to enter into employment. So let’s ensure that we supply employers with the work-ready employees they’re seeking by investing in vocational education. The Study Programme, which comes into effect from September of this year, consists of 540 hours of qualification and ‘non-qualification’ time. The ‘non qualification’ time is for work experience and I think this is a positive step forward in preparing young people for securing employment.

What’s more, colleges can give structure to their learners’ work placements by delivering vocational qualifications alongside their experience. For example NCFE Level 2 Award in Developing Skills for the Workplace, Awards and Certificates in Employability Skills, Awards and Certificates in Enterprise Skills, Awards in Job Search and Interview Skills and Awards and Certificates in Occupational Studies are all helpful in supporting the development of key employability skills. These qualifications enable students to demonstrate the skills that they’ve learnt and how they can be applied in the workplace.

If you’re interested in finding out about NCFE’s wide portfolio of vocational qualifications or would like to know more about how these qualifications can support your delivery of the Study Programme, please just get in touch by emailing [email protected] or giving us a call on 0191239 8000. We look forward to hearing from you.

David Grailey is chief executive of NCFE, the training provider

Related Articles