From education to employment

Next steps

For most of us August is a relatively calm month but for those students, and indeed teachers and parents, expecting A-Level and GCSE results it is understandably stressful.

This year, Edge has been delighted to see so much discussion surrounding alternatives to traditional routes through the education system. In the current economic climate it is refreshing to see more students taking control of their own education and seeking out the best paths to their chosen careers, whether that’s a mixture of vocational qualifications (VQs) and GCSEs or A Levels, an apprenticeship or a vocational degree.

As champions of technical, practical and vocational learning we are firm believers that there are many paths to success and we are encouraged to see that students are beginning to understand this too. To ensure that more students see that taking a vocational route is not just a ‘plan b’, that it can be a valuable choice in its own right, and in many cases a more beneficial choice than an expensive academic route, we need to see a change in perception of VQs.

This change is happening and as a country we are starting to realise the worth of skills, nowhere more so than at WorldSkills which this year took place in Leipzig.

On such a huge stage and among stiff competition from around the world, Team UK weren’t phased and it was great to see the 2012 Olympic Spirit still burning with a haul of medals. Our congratulations go especially to Ashley Terron and George Callow who won Gold in Bricklaying and Cabinet Making respectively.

However, the bias we place in the UK on university as a default route for students ultimately relegates vocational options and practical learning to a second class status. This means that as a country we are lacking in young adults who are skilled to degree level and ready for work in vital sectors such as manufacturing, construction and engineering.

While there is no quick fix, at Edge we believe that as a country we have the capacity to develop an education and training system which provides young people with the skills, confidence and ambition to succeed along whatever path they chose to take.

There are plenty of success stories out there. You only need to look at the VQ Day Learner of the Year Aaron Freeman or the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy Entrepreneur of the Year, Harry Day who are both running their own businesses, or the many City & Guilds Lion Award winners who have all done fantastic things with their VQs, to see that a vocational pathway can be just as successful as an academic one.

A generation who are in careers they are suited to, that they have chosen to pursue, can only be a good thing for the economy and the country as a whole.

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


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…