A paper by the Institute for Public Policy Research suggests that the British economy will be unable to contend internationally if more attention is not focused on vocational education. They have said that too much attention has been invested into those who are earning degrees and high-skilled qualifications, which is creating a gap in our workforce.
Britain needs better quality vocational education
“In their desire to ‘win the global race’, policymakers have focused on increasing the number of graduates in the economy. However, winning the race will require more than simply expanding general higher education,” the IPPR states.
“Britain also needs stronger and better quality vocational education, coupled with new business models that make better use of workforce skills and enable companies to move up the value chain. This will require employers to engage in a more meaningful way in vocational education and skills development. Without action in these areas, our economy will not be equipped to compete successfully on the global stage.”
The study concludes that in the last 30 years Britain‚Äôs workforce has become increasingly polarised, with high-skilled work on the top, and low at the bottom. They believe this is due to technological advances and global competition, which has ultimately cut a large number of the middle-income jobs available to workers. These factors may have also pushed the government to focus on increasing the number of workers with higher skills, whilst other sectors of the labour market have been neglected.
“This has led to a focus by successive governments on expanding higher education, with relatively little attention paid to vocational education and training, or the way that firms demand and use skills in the workplace,” IPPR say.
“A recent example of this tunnel vision is the decision by the government to remove the cap on student numbers, with the express intention of attracting more young people into full-time undergraduate degree courses, while at the same time it is cutting funding for further education and presiding over a reduction in the number of young people going into apprenticeships.”
The report was commissioned by the Edge Foundation for Vocational Qualifications Day, their chief executive Jan Hodges believes he has the solution. “This research clearly demonstrates that we must continue to support high quality vocational education if we are to meet the needs of our future economy,” Hodges says.
“Education that combines rigorous academic teaching with a more practical and technical element – as we are seeing at university technical colleges, career colleges and studio schools – is a good example of how we can address the future skills issue.”
The Minister for Skills and Enterprise Matthew Hancock added, “VQ day is about celebrating the ways in which high-quality vocational education and training, in all its forms, benefits learners, employers and the economy as a whole. We are reforming vocational qualifications to make sure they are rigorous and responsive to employers’ needs, to ensure all students get a valued qualification.”