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Editor's comment

The news that National Vocational Qualifications are little understood by employers, reported on our front page this week, will come as no surprise to anyone who has entered into conversation with business people about the state of our education system.

The Association of Colleges' reaction - effectively to suggest that employers should keep themselves better-informed - might be fair comment but it would be an unrealistic expectation to hold.

Nevertheless, its chief executive, John Brennan, is right to be angry.

NVQs, as he points out, were designed not only with employers in mind but with employers on board - and with their active involvement.

Of course, training towards NVQs takes place in industry itself as well as in colleges, which makes employers' lack of knowledge seem even more bizarre. As our story this week has shown, two decades of ignorance in industry show little sign of going away.

Indeed, it seems some employers find themselves hurling CVs in the direction of the waste bin as soon as they see the candidate has an NVQ.

In the world of work, it is all too often a candidate's academic qualifications, however irrelevant these might be to the skills needed for the job, which cut the mustard.

Ask a candidate "what can you do" and a fresh-faced 18-year-old with a set of A-levels even a graduate might struggle to find an answer.

The candidate with an NVQ can answer the same question with clarity because their qualification itself provides the answer - LESS THAN which is precisely why employers were so enthusiastic about the creation of NVQs in the first place.

All this, apparently, is lost on most of the world of business. Company directors remain in the dark despite industry being represented on college governing boards and on the Learning and Skills Council at national and local level.

Even the pound;23 billion which industry claims to spend on training and staff development has not, apparently, been enough to educate its own executives about the basics of the education system and how it can contribute to their bottom line.

It is understandable that the AoC should be frustrated about industry's attitude to NVQs when, according to government figures, the amount of money firms spend on off-the-job training per employee each year is about the same as some spend on an executive lunch.

If employers ignore NVQs and, in doing so, overlook the vocational skills of the candidate, they deserve to be lumbered with the under-trained workforce for which many parts of British industry have sadly become famous.

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