Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Vocational Education: Challenging Attitude, Unleashing Aspiration

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Vocational Education: Challenging Attitude, Unleashing Aspiration

Article excerpt

The OECD announced, last year, that the UK Is shifting ever closer to becoming a graduate economy, with a large rise in adults holding degree-level qualifications. Bridging the gap: student attitudes towards careers, a report by the Chartered Insurance Institute, the world's largest professional body for Insurance and financial services, backs up this trend finding that 82 per cent of sixth-form students plan on going to university. Only 7 per cent said they have no intention of doing so.

The expectation that huge numbers of young people go to university has, in part, had a detrimental Impact on attitudes towards other worthwhile options--most notably vocational education. A report by the Edge Foundation showed that only a quarter of parents think of vocational education as "worthwhile" whilst the CII's research highlighted similar ambivalence, this time towards the government's flagship apprenticeship programme, with only a fifth of sixth-formers saying they would consider undertaking one.

Yet vocational education, and apprenticeships in particular, provide access to a wide range of careers. The blend of theory and practical application is highly valued by employers. Professions, like law and financial services, are opening up, offering opportunities to young people of all backgrounds, Individuals who might never have considered those disciplines in the past.

Take insurance for example. It Is meritocratic in nature, providing opportunities for anyone to progress and we are seeing more and more firms embrace this, leaving no stone unturned, sourcing talent via a variety of routes. This has been booste by the industry's collective efforts in promoting insurance apprenticeships to firms and to young people alike--both as a viable alternative or accompaniment to graduate schemes.

Yet "parity of esteem" continues to be an issue for non-university routes. …

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