From education to employment

Vocational skills report: Perceptions need challenging

An international report finds esteem for vocational training in the UK is low compared with other countries, despite a comparatively high level of investment in training by employers.

An international report finds esteem for vocational training in the UK is low compared with other countries, despite a comparatively high level of investment in training by employers.

A major survey carried out across nine countries by the City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (CSD) found that in most places, the UK included, esteem for vocational training is increasing. Nevertheless stakeholders agreed more is still needed to be done to change the perception that a vocational education was inferior to an academic route.

The CSD study, Skills Development: Attitudes and Perceptions picked nine countries across a broad spectrum – thus European countries were included alongside Canada and Australia and developing countries such as India. Nevertheless, despite the differences in demographics, economy and educational history, certain common issues emerged during the survey of 2000 employers and practitioners.

Keith Brooker, Director of CSD explains: “We were surprised with the extent to which issues in all nine countries were aligned. There were four themes that stakeholders everywhere identified as important: quality of provision; matching supply and demand; employer engagement and the esteem in which vocational training is held.”

That is not to say that each country does not have it’s own issues. Germany was picked for the survey as it is seen as a model where vocational education is highly regarded. The report found that esteem is still high, indeed the highest of the nine countries, but is falling rapidly. Possible reasons for this, says Mr Brooker, include the change from a large industrial infrastructure which is being replaced by small and medium-sized enterprises, and the impact of immigration from countries where academia is held in high regard.

In the UK, the survey found a number of positives: there is more ongoing training for practitioners than any of the other countries surveyed together with high employer investment in training and a lower skills shortfall than average across the nine countries. But other issues need to be addressed such as communication across the vocational sector and low esteem.

The report is the first work of the CSD which was officially launched on March 12th. Leading on from the findings, the purpose of the centre is to promote good practice and policy internationally, based on the four issues mentioned previously.

Keith Brooker says: “Challenging perceptions is a huge issue. We can make progress internationally in several ways. As a result of the work undertaken for the report we have created a good relationship with the people involved and they have established networks themselves – employers and providers are keeping in touch and establishing communication.

“The centre keeps abreast of policy developments, and we aim to influence policy and practice through our research.”

In addition to ongoing consultancy work, the CSD will use their research to target areas where positive changes can be made to improve the vocational skills sector

Keith Brooker recognises that changing perceptions is a long haul. “These views are deeply ingrained. There are many influences on young people when they are making choices and too many people get pushed into an academic route that is not appropriate for them – not just in the UK. We need to get the message across to young people and parents that a vocational route is more suitable for many people – it prepares them for work and a career.

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