From education to employment

Counting down to VQ Day

VQ Day is just around the corner and as we countdown the final days to the celebrations it’s worth taking a step back and remembering what it’s all for.

Every year, thousands of learners study for vocational qualifications; these practical, rigorous courses are the stepping stones that will set them on the path to fulfilling careers suited to their talents and ambitions. Not only that, they are the glue that will hold our future economy together and allow it to thrive and grow.

The UKCES Employer Skills Survey released earlier this year, highlighted the fact that although job vacancies are returning to pre-recession levels, many employers are still finding it hard to recruit people with the right skills. The survey of over 90,000 employers also highlights that the most commonly cited reason for education leavers of all types being poorly prepared for work was that the new recruits lacked experience of the working world or experience of life in general. This is where high quality vocational qualifications come into their own.

Technical, practical and vocational qualifications provide learners with real life experience as they study. They allow young people to combine ‘know-how’ with ‘can-do’ so that when they leave education they are ready to move seamlessly into the workplace. And, despite the long-held belief that an academic education will lead to higher earnings, once they’re in the workplace they are just as likely to reap equal financial rewards. Research from the 2012 First Steps to Wealth Report, illustrates that the lifetime earnings of a graduate are comparable with the lifetime earnings of many former apprentices – for example construction apprentices earn £1,504,000 compared with £1,612,000 for a graduate.

Economically, vocational qualifications make sense but the moral argument for recognising that there are many paths to success is just as strong as ever. At the Edge Foundation, we believe it is wrong to celebrate some forms of success, but not others which is why VQ Day is so important. There is value in all forms of learning and on VQ Day on 4th June we are looking forward to giving vocational education its turn in the sun. In celebrating the achievements and hard work of the thousands of learners up and down the country who take vocational qualifications, and the teachers and employers who make it possible, we hope to inspire others to recognise the importance of them, and open their minds to the idea that all forms of learning are equally important.

As excitement mounts, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the 100s of colleges, learning providers, schools and businesses who are getting involved and celebrating VQ Day. We have been inundated with requests for funding for ‘Have a Go’ activities and are grateful to The Skills Show for releasing the money to fund these through our sponsorship of the show. With a wide variety of events taking place across the UK, it’s certainly shaping up to be another very exciting VQ Day.

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

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