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Vocational training – a credible alternative to university

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Despite the news that top A-Level grades have fallen for the first time in 2 decades, August’s papers have been filled with images of delighted students, clutching their well-earned results with pride. But what does the future hold for these young people as they move on to the next chapter of their lives?

Well, it seems that many of them are opting out of university and choosing an alternative path – university applications have dropped by 8.8%, representing 15,000 students who have taken a different route. It is thought that the drop is a direct result of the rise in tuition fees (the cost of a degree is set to increase to an average £8500 per year by 2013).

For the past decade, university has been the default route for many students; the ‘expected’ option in order to secure a successful future. However, as young people struggle to find jobs in the face of high unemployment, it raises the question of whether university is always the right choice.

Surely, it’s also important to nurture the talents of those who don’t quite fit into the traditional academic structure; those who want to start their own business, learn a trade, gain practical skills and prepare for work. It’s heartening to see many young people looking to apprenticeships and other forms of vocational training to further their development in this way.

Apprenticeships allow learners to gain real workplace experience while at the same time gaining a nationally recognised qualification. They include elements of on-the-job and off-the-job studying so learners can earn money whilst also gaining quality training. And unlike their university educated peers, they won’t face huge fees and years of debt at the end of their training.

At NCFE, we’re supporting the increase in apprenticeship demand with an expanding range of qualifications. We offer over 50 full apprenticeship frameworks and related qualifications at both Intermediate and Advanced levels, covering a range of sectors. What’s more, we also provide

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the full range of Functional Skills qualifications, a component part of all apprenticeship frameworks.

Functional Skills prepare learners for the workplace by providing them with the opportunities to use important numeracy, literacy and ICT skills in real, practical situations. NCFE can support colleges with the successful delivery of Functional Skills, either as stand-alone qualifications or as part of an Apprenticeship.

To this end, NCFE is hosting a free information and training event in September, which allows colleges to share information on contextualising the qualifications to different sectors, student activities and delivery and evidence gathering.

Overall, at NCFE, we believe that when it comes to education, one size definitely does not fit all. In order for our society to be healthy and prosperous, we need individuals to have a wide range of different skills. That’s why we encourage young people to consider an apprenticeship as a credible option. Through apprenticeships, college leavers can become fully equipped to enter the competitive labour market, without the financial burden of a degree.

David Grailey is chief executive of NCFE, the training provider

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