Britain needs stronger and better-quality vocational education if the country is to compete internationally, according to a new report.
Published to coincide with Vocational Qualifications Day, “Winning the Global Race?” , published by think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research, says vocational education and training has been “neglected” in favour of higher education.
The research found that a large number of jobs will be created in sectors that tend to rely on vocational education and qualifications in the near future.
For example, there is set to be an additional 3.6 million jobs in medium-skilled occupations by 2022, including in health care and skilled trades, all of which employ large numbers of people with level 3 and level 4 vocational qualifications or apprenticeships.
IPPR researcher Craig Thorley said: “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. Britain also needs stronger and better-quality vocational education, coupled with new business models that make better use of workforce skills.”
He added that this would require employers to engage in a “more meaningful way” with vocational education and skills development.
Lynne Sedgmore CBE, executive director of the 157 Group of colleges, said the report confirmed what many working in the FE sector already know.
“The successful workers of the future will need to have precisely those skills and attributes that a provider of vocational education can offer,” she said.
“As last year’s Ofsted annual report reminded us, the overwhelming majority of further education colleges in England already provide a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ experience for their learners, and today offers us the chance to remember that and to raise once again the profile of vocational pathways.”
Chris Jones, chief executive of vocational education body City & Guilds, said too many young people were leaving education without the right skills.
He called for high-quality careers advice and better coordination between education and employers.
Michele Sutton, president of the Association of Colleges, said: “The learning and training landscape has changed for young people. It shouldn't be assumed that completing a three-year academic course in university is the best path to follow to get a successful career.”