OECD report urges England to expand its post-secondary vocational provision

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England has been urged to expand the provision of post-secondary vocational education and training programmes if it wants to meet the changing needs of both students and employers.

A report from the influential Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) praises our system of three-year bachelor degrees, but says that too few people are pursuing shorter one and two-year vocational programmes after they have finished secondary school.

While in many other countries covered by the OECD up to one third of a cohort will have post-secondary vocational qualifications as their highest qualification, this figure in England is less than 10 per cent.

The report, Skills Beyond School – England, says that these qualifications “give people the skills many employers are now seeking”.

It also says that England needs more programmes designed to “deepen the professional skills of graduates of vocational programmes and apprentices”. 

These type of courses make up a substantial proportion of post-secondary vocational provision in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, it adds.

The OECD report also recommends that England should rationalise the number of types of vocational qualifications offered by awarding organisations. 

It states: “The current system inhibits employer engagement in the development of qualifications both at national and local level, and causes confusion because of the large number of overlapping qualifications.”

It also says that quality workplace training opportunities should be a “substantial and mandatory” part of post-secondary vocational programmes.

The OECD report praised certain strengths of the English system, including our “diverse offer” of further education colleges, universities and other institutions, as well as what it called the “fast-growing” Higher Apprenticeships, which it said were “highly valued by employers and students”.

The OECD is a global economic policy forum. It provides analysis and advice to its 34 member governments and other countries worldwide. 

The report is part of an OECD series, Skills Beyond School, that aims to help countries improve their post-secondary vocational and educational training programmes. 

For more information, visit www.oecd.org/education/vet


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