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Vocational courses double in five years

The number of vocational qualifications earned by students has more than doubled in five years, according to the first annual study of job- related courses.

More than 3.25 million NVQs, Btecs, City and Guilds qualifications and other vocational courses were completed last year, up from 1.5 million five years ago, according to research carried out by the Edge Foundation.

Colleges are responsible for half of such courses completed by students. But as the Government implements its plans for 14 to 19 education, 155,000 vocational qualifications were picked up by schoolchildren, often using college expertise and facilities. The number of schools with these partnerships has doubled in five years.

IT, health, public services and care were the most common subjects, each accounting for nearly a fifth of all qualifications.

The report predicted that the biggest future demand for skills would be in public administration and defence, education, health and social work and the utilities, as well as in growth industries such as computing and construction. But the researchers also said the decline of manufacturing was overstated and demand for skilled workers was still strong as companies tried to replace an ageing workforce.

The report was produced as part of VQ Day (on Wednesday), an attempt by the Edge Foundation to boost the profile of job-related courses by creating an equivalent to A-level or GCSE results day.

But the celebration was undermined by the fact that results for this year's students are not available, since some vocational courses have not yet finished.

Andy Powell, chief executive of the Edge Foundation, said it was vital to celebrate vocational success if Britain is to train its six million unskilled workers. He said: "Jobs requiring vocational skills are expected to rise across all industry sectors. There's no argument: the UK needs more people with such qualifications and we should celebrate those who choose this route to success."

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