Let's make VQ day a recruiting tool

9th July 2010 at 01:00
I looked round the Royal Horticultural Halls last month, as it hosted the English national celebration of vocational qualifications day, and it struck me that we were missing a trick.

Lots of eager young people demonstrated their skills, including catering students from our college, who were excited to be working with Vivek Singh, chef and proprietor of the Cinnamon Club, to prepare and serve food that was widely admired. But where were the young people who have not yet made up their minds about their career choices? Here was a great opportunity to show them, and their parents, what they could do with a vocational path, to have a go, and to talk to young people who had made that choice.

When FE Focus printed an article from me in August 2007 advocating VQ day, I didn't expect that it would so quickly become an established part of the education scene. Edge and its partners deserve the highest praise for the energetic and imaginative way in which they have made a success of it.

The purpose was to celebrate vocational success, and to use that success to shape attitudes that have for too long given pride of place to the academic over the vocational. That job is by no means done, and events like those last week do an important job. But there is another job to be done: getting the messages over to young people, and to those who advise them.

As a second string to our bow, let's use VQ day as an "open-house day" when employers open their doors to show young people what exciting careers they can have using vocational skills. And, wherever possible, giving them a chance to try things out for themselves, and to talk to those who have already made their choices to find out what it's really like.

It needs no central direction, no central funding, and no central targets: awarding bodies like Edexcel, colleges, training providers and others, working with their partner employers, will find dozens of imaginative and exciting ways of showing young people what they can do in a vocational career. "Open house" on VQ day could build to become an important part of how we promote vocational careers: nothing is as powerful as seeing for yourself.

Iain Mackinnon, Governor, Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College.

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