From education to employment

Report calls for vocational qualification shake-up

Vocational qualifications should be streamlined with employers given more control of a simplified system to boost their relevance, according to a government-commissioned review.

The Review of Adult Vocational Qualifications in England sets out a number of proposals, including requiring all awarding organisations to work with business owners to design and develop qualifications. Further down the chain it would also force training providers to work with local employers to support curriculum design and implementation.

Occupational standards would be created by employer-led collaborations, and they would also apply across Apprenticeships and Tech Levels.

Report author Nigel Whitehead, who is managing director of engineering giant BAE Systems as well as a member of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, which published the proposals, also called for greater transparency.

“Training providers and awarding organisations should provide information on outcomes and impact for learners, including evidence of students/employees passing adult vocational qualifications going on to study at a higher level, or securing employment (including whether the course was relevant to the employment) or an Apprenticeship; where possible, information about employment progression should also be included,” he stated in the report.

“To do this, awarding organisations would be responsible for collecting data and using it to improve their offer. The information would be publicly available to help training providers test the awarding market and select the best value, as well as to demonstrate to individuals which awarding organisations and qualifications deliver the best results.”

David Hughes, chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), welcomed the attempt to simplify the notoriously complicated system.

“This report is a helpful contribution to the debate about what works and what doesn’t to help ensure vocational qualifications operate effectively within the broader funding and regulatory systems,” he said.

“We are particularly pleased that the review recommends that awarding organisations and training providers should engage actively with employers, that there should be a single point of access to the different qualifications databases and that the UK Commission for Employment and Skills should work with employers to agree the future model for occupational standards.”

However, Mr Hughes also expressed concerns over a proposal in the report that would give awarding organisations the option to move away from unit-based qualifications.

“We know that unit-based delivery offers many advantages to both employers and employees as demonstrated through NIACE’s evaluation of the unit trials and our research in support of the unit offer for unemployed people,” he said.

Natalie Thornhill


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