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Insight: UK needs ‘stronger’ vocational education


Certain areas of the economy are experiencing a “mismatch” between the skills and qualifications that employers require and those actually held by workers, according to a new report that warns that vocational education must be improved.

The study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found that 39% of vacancies in skilled trades are caused by skills shortages, with areas such as health and care work seeing particular shortages emerging. 

Over the next decade, the report suggests that a significant number of jobs will be created in sectors that rely on vocational education and qualifications, with a predicted additional 3.6 million jobs in medium-skilled occupations by 2022. This includes professionals in health care, skilled trades and public service.

In addition, between 2012 and 2022, just over a third of all jobs will be created in high-skilled occupations, with the remainder in medium and low-skilled roles, the IPPR said.

The report also warned that the creation of high-skilled jobs has not kept up with the rapid increase in education and qualifications, with a fifth of all workers in low-skilled occupations holding a higher education qualification.

“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,” said the IPPR.

“Britain 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 to take advantage.

“This will require employers to engage in a more meaningful way in vocational education and skills development than they do currently.”

The report was launched to mark Vocational Qualifications (VQ) Day 2014, which took place yesterday.

Jan Hodges OBE, CEO of education charity the Edge Foundation, which leads VQ Day, said: "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.

"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.”

Skills and enterprise minister, 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.”

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Lucie Mitchell


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