Vocational education takes centre stage on VQ Day

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Teachers know more about vocational qualifications, including apprenticeships, but are still not actively encouraging students to consider such options, research realised to mark VQ Day has found.

Released to mark the annual Vocational Qualifications (VQ) Day, the study found that 28 per cent of more than 1,000 teachers and lecturers now describe their knowledge of apprenticeships as good or very good compared to 17 per cent in 2009.

However, this still compares poorly to teachers’ knowledge of university pathways, with only nine per cent describing their knowledge of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees as poor or very poor.

Furthermore, in a separate study, 92 per cent of 500 A level students on vocational qualifications got the impression that their school wanted them to go to university.

A third of young learners also said that vocational qualifications have never been presented to them as an option, while 77 per cent say they were discouraged from pursuing a vocational path.

One in five studying A levels (20 per cent) were told that vocational qualifications are designed for less ambitious students and 29 per cent that they were aimed at those who were less bright.

The fifth annual VQ Day took place last Wednesday, June 20, and saw celebrations across the UK to mark the millions of people who achieve high quality vocational qualifications every year. 

Events took place at colleges, schools, businesses and learning providers across the country, including award ceremonies and open days. National events were also held in each of the home nations, including in London (see pictures, above).

Alongside the celebrations, campaigners have called on the government to supply schools and teachers with thorough information so that they are better supported to inform and enthuse students about vocational study options and careers available.

Jan Hodges, CEO of the vocational education charity Edge, which leads VQ Day, believes that teachers’ poor knowledge of apprenticeships does not bode well.

She said: “It’s important that teachers realise apprenticeships are a fantastic way to get technical knowledge and skills that are highly sought after. If teachers don’t know about apprenticeships and vocational qualifications, there’s a real risk they’ll guide young people towards the qualifications they know best – the academic route. Ultimately, this can only harm the country’s economy – and more importantly young people themselves could be losing out on valuable learning opportunities.

“The National Careers Service and the National Apprenticeship Service are working hard to provide good quality information about vocational qualifications and apprenticeships, but it’s clear from this research that more needs to be done.”

VQ Day saw Dave Hughes, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, named VQ Learner of the Year 2012. Mr Hughes, 24, achieved the highest distinction possible in his National Diploma in art and design before setting-up his own marketing and design agency.

Dr Vince Cable, business secretary, presented Mr Hughes with his award. He said: “Returning our economy to good health will depend on skilled workers just like Dave and vocational qualifications are key in helping millions of people every year to develop the skills employers are crying out for.”

Aside from the awards, the London event showcased a variety of vocational demonstrations from UK colleges, ranging from performing arts and forensic science to aerospace engineering. Visit www.vqday.org.uk.

CAPTIONS: Performing arts students from Walsall College perform during the London VQ Day celebration event, while business secretary Vince Cable speaks during the day


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