The snobbery towards vocational study won’t get students anywhere
A lack of proper careers advice has led to a generation of young people being unaware of what they need to study in order to reach their desired careers. Recent statistics from Money Saving Expert suggests that 79% of 16-18 year-olds still plan to go to university, despite a huge number of them being unaware of the alternative routes into the world of work.
It is apparent that the main factor in this nationwide problem is secondary schools and their lack of efficient guidance. Too many of them are providing short term solutions to benefit themselves, rather than targeting the long-term career goals of their students. More information and specific career-targeting subjects should be available, as well as advice on local apprenticeship and training schemes. It’s not the blinding leading the blind, so much as it is the morally obtuse dragging the blindfolded.
The recent culling of thousands of BTEC subjects from the published league tables is a step backwards for aspiring young people. Over 2000 subjects, including Travel & Tourism and Horse Care diplomas have been scrapped from the success tallies of school league tables. It’s obvious that schools aren’t going to offer subjects that won’t benefit that own marketability, so they may as well have been banned altogether.
Admittedly, this strategy may prove effective in curving schools’ manipulation of coursework-based BTECs to boost their performance, it doesn’t justify penalising those genuinely aspiring to become travel advisors or stable hands. Why should these students be forced to revise Pythagorean theory or the verses of Homer if they don’t hold any interest? It is clearly good to hold a well-rounded bank of knowledge but surely this becomes obsolete when it holds such little relevance to your adult work life.
There is an abundance of examples selling the importance of holding a degree to provide ‘options’ and ‘back-up plans’ for students. Yet when you consider that over a quarter of graduates find they are still unemployed after almost four years of gaining their degree, this idea has the appearance of one of the worst back-up plans ever construed. Like plugging the hole of a sinking ship with tissue paper and gleefully bidding everyone to come back to the tennis courts, it’s only prolonging the inevitable.
The coalition’s talk of new academies, which will be designed specifically to meet the needs of less ‘academic’ students and teach them vocational skills, is dancing around the problem. Educational segregation is only going to reinforce the stigma of academic failure, returning us to an 11+ style system which will be a preserver of the kind of labelling and streaming that fuels Britain’s class gap. This is not nurturing, this is role allocation.
The vocational and academic should be taught side by side as equals. Stats collected by the Association of Accounting Technicians also show nearly half of students believe a degree is necessary to become an accountant, just over a third think the same for engineering jobs and a fifth for occupations in IT. If these students had been provided with proper guidance, then surely there would be an overwhelming majority aware of the alternative routes into these careers, such as the multitude of available apprenticeship schemes. Nevertheless, students questioned as part of the survey were ignorant about the alternative routes into their careers.
It is an elitist mindset which has prevented widespread publication and acknowledgement of the practical steps into these traditionally post-university positions. Therefore, if the government wants to find a way of making education more relevant to its students, then schools need to remove their pro-’academic’ and anti-practical bias towards qualifications within the system, allowing students to thrive in their more specific areas of ability, creating a more fulfilled and credible workforce.Tagged in: BTEC, career, careers advice, degree, education, employment, school, student, university, vocational courses
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