A recently published report entitled Vocational ladders or crazy paving? Making your way to higher levels by Helen Connor and Brenda Little of the LSDA has shown that the routes into higher education are more varied than ever. The main focus of the LSDA is to improve post-16 education and training in England, Wales and Northern Ireland through policy informed by research. Its report was compiled form information gathered between January and July 2004 made up of a review of the research literature, interviews with personnel in four important sectors of business and an analysis of data on progression between academic Levels 3 and 4.
The document focused on four employment sectors and produced different findings in each. The agriculture and horticulture sector showed an increased demand for higher level skills despite a difficulty in attracting younger employees. Engineering qualifications were valued in the automotive engineering sector and an apprenticeship network was well established. The health and social care sector had large numbers involved in apprenticeships but these were mainly connected to medical professions and the travel sector placed little emphasis on academic qualifications.
Overall, the report argued that there needed to be change to make Higher Education more accessible to those in work, older people or those without traditional academic qualifications. It was also found that there was a lack of information concerning alternative routes to Higher Education and better data needed to be provided to professional bodies and employers. There was a difficulty in gauging the level of academic qualifications because of the great variety available so the promotion of their value was recommended.
Other advice offered by the report included better advertising of the different routes into Higher Education, more flexibility from colleges to makes courses accessible to employers, encouragement for higher achievers opting for vocational education and a smoother transition from apprenticeships to higher education. Minister for Skills and Vocational Education, Ivan Lewis believed that this is a step in the right direction of improving higher education saying “with the growth of Foundation degrees we have seen nearly 38,000 students benefiting from these crazy paving courses designed with employers.” These included the BMW Groups scheme of developing a mature apprenticeship system in conjunction with Coventry University and City College Coventry.
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