Vocational training

In a changing job market, skills training can offer some of the best paths to success – FE News

This month, thousands of young people across the UK will have received their GCSE, A Level and T Level results and will be preparing to take the next step in their education or perhaps enter the job market. These young people will face a job market that is difficult to predict – the economic impact of Covid-19 is still being felt, as well as a possible recession on the horizon, making it all the more important that they do the right things informed choice.

A study by City & Guilds found that 40% of young people plan to go to university after completing their A Levels, with girls (47%) being more likely than boys (30%). While earning a degree is undoubtedly the right path for some young people, it is also clear that many will find it difficult to use their qualification effectively, with economic modellers Lightcast finding that only 30% of jobs in the UK Uni require a university degree. This means that up to 1 in 4 graduates will find themselves unable to obtain a job that requires their level of education, and many of them leave university under the burden of student loans.

Vocational training and apprenticeships represent a valuable alternative route, providing access to a wide range of careers, with learners gaining hands-on experience without racking up the student debt that typically accompanies a college education. Recent research from the London School of Economics has also shown that the apparent earnings gap between apprentices and graduates may have reversed, with apprentices earning up to £7,000 more in their twenties than graduates.

Unfortunately, the UK struggles with a disconnect between employers, training providers and the learners themselves, with young people often not having access to the most up-to-date information on which to base their career choices. Earlier this year the Baker Clause became legally enforceable, with new guidelines for schools due to be released in 2023, no doubt a step in the right direction to ensure young people have access to the information they need to make informed choices about their future.

Promising sectors and careers of the future

In our Searching for great jobs, we’ve explored the essential jobs and industries the UK depends on. Many of these critical sectors face significant skills shortages and can offer well-paying, long-lasting careers that don’t require a college education.

However, many of these sectors are struggling with negative public perception. Only 17% of people we surveyed who were not currently working in construction said they would consider it a career, a figure that drops to 9% among women. Energy and utilities are also unpopular, despite the fact that these fields can offer high levels of pay and reliable jobs without the need for a college education.

Encouraging young people to consider different educational backgrounds will mean educating them about the potential careers they may be accustomed to accessing and the benefits of those careers. Embedding career counseling and guidance early in the curriculum, from primary school onwards, will be key to dispelling myths and helping young people to keep an open mind about a wide range of careers and sectors.

Educators also have an important role to play in making vocational training accessible to young people. The cost of living crisis means that, for young people, while increasing their long-term earning potential is important, for many they will be under financial pressure in the here and now. Making training flexible and using technology to make distance learning more widely available will give young people the opportunity to develop their skills while giving them the freedom to pursue employment.

We must also favor the creation of “small bites” training, allowing young people to develop their skills as and when they need to, without necessarily having to follow a long-term full-time training. As the needs of learners are changing rapidly in a changing economic climate, education and training provision must also be adaptable.

Vocational training will also need to be tailored to different parts of the UK, with a ‘one size fits all’ approach unsuitable given the different industries and sectors offering opportunities across the country. Training providers should use local labor market data to identify the best opportunities available to young people in their area, and base counseling and career guidance accordingly. This will mean building relationships with local employers to understand their needs and serve to bridge the gap between learners and employers.

Training providers, employers and government all have an important role to play in ensuring that young people, and those from whom they seek career advice, have the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their future. This will require a cohesive and concerted effort to effect a broader culture shift and encourage people to reconsider their existing ideas of what constitutes success. However, it is a worthwhile effort, not only for the long-term economic success of the country, but also to give young people the best possible chance.

By David Phillips, Managing Director of City & Guilds

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