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Careers Exploration

The Vocational Route…An investment towards the future

Education is good for you. And for your bank manager. The more education you have the better your prospects - and your earning potential.

Accumulating new skills and learning is an investment in your future, making you better-placed when the time comes to enter the job market.

So what holds people back? Perhaps they think that, at the age of 16, they have learned enough to last them a lifetime. Maybe they view learning as being distinctly ’uncool’.

At the Learning and Skills Council we have an entirely different view. Learning is not only good for the individual but for the country as a whole.

You also have a choice about the learning route you take. You can take the academic path by going on to further or higher education. Or you can take the vocational choice of learning while earning at work.

A long-standing problem in this country has been the divide between traditional academic subjects like history and vocational subjects such as social work. The two ‘camps’ mostly led separate lives and vested interests tended to mean things stayed that way.

This won’t do for the 21 st century, and one of our key aims is to break down barriers and bring as many people as possible into learning of all sorts.

The Learning and Skills Council is responsible for providing and funding all education and vocational training in England for people over the age of 16, apart from the university sector.

We have a very big job to do. Part of it is to change attitudes towards education and vocational training in this country.

While ‘staying-on rates’ at 18 have improved very sharply over the last 15 years, the numbers of 17 and 18 year olds in education and training remains below that of many other countries. In 2000 around 75 per cent of people aged 16-18 were in what is called structured learning (at school, at college or in work-based learning).

We have set a target that, by 2004, this figure will have risen to 80 per cent.

The Government has made clear, in the February 2002 Green Paper for 14-19 year olds, its determination to raise the status of vocational qualifications so that they are not seen as inferior to academic subjects.

Commenting on the Green Paper, Bryan Sanderson, Chairman of the Learning and Skills Council, said: "If I am remembered for one thing in my role as Chairman of the LSC, it would be for the destruction of British 'academic snobbery' and the walls dividing our education system. I hope that I've abolished the distinction between vocational and academic learning".

John Harwood, Chief Executive of the Learning and Skills Council, said:

“We welcome the Green Paper. The Learning and Skills Council is committed to ensuring that young people have access to education and training of consistently high quality, within a framework offering maximum local freedom and flexibility.

"There has been debate for many years about parity of esteem between general and vocational routes; this proposal brings that debate to an end.

" We have to support schools and colleges in their work, promote and spread good practice, and follow the Government's lead by removing any unnecessary barriers in our own systems and procedures."

A £38 million programme of work-related learning placements, which will help up to 40,000 14-16 year olds, will be introduced from September 2002. The young people will study at school, college or with a training provider.

The money will be allocated to suitable partnerships consisting of sixth form colleges, further education colleges, schools, training providers and other local agencies. The funding is intended to cover the cost of vocational placements at colleges or with training providers, travel grants, costs of equipment and learning materials and the cost of specialist courses.

Partnerships will aim to create better vocational and work-related learning opportunities for local 14-16 year olds who can benefit most - including provision of GCSEs in vocational subjects.

Various programmes can help gain entry onto a degree course: The following vocationally related qualifications are seen as legitimate and credible routes to higher education by the LSC:

  • AVCE s: Advanced Vocational Certificates of Education (or vocational A Levels) are qualifications which have the same value as A Levels but have a work related emphasis. They allow young people to gain experience of one or more areas of work as well as developing the knowledge, skills and understanding relevant to a broad vocational sector. Progression from an AVCE may be either into appropriate employment or into higher education. AVCEs (the new name for GNVQs) are available as three, six and 12 unit qualifications. The six unit qualification is equivalent to the A Level. The 12 unit AVCE (known as the double award) is equivalent to two A Levels. Assessment is by coursework (a portfolio of work), which is internally assessed, and external assessment.
  • Advanced Apprenticeships (in respect of HNC/Ds and Foundation degrees. The recent report of the Modern Apprenticeship Advisory Committee indicated that more work needs to be undertaken in raising awareness of progression routes into higher education for young people who are wanting to follow this route).
  • BTEC Nationals (NC/Ds). These qualifications have just been accredited into the national qualifications framework and UCAS are in the process of assigning them tariff points in respect of progression into higher education. AVCEs already have tariff points.

The LSC says: “It is an aspiration for us that progression to higher education should be an available and credible option for young people who reach the required standard and satisfy the required entry criteria. In this respect the Foundation degrees are particularly important.”

For further information about the Learning and Skills Council visit our website at






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