Employers and employees divided over value of vocational training, says research

Almost half of employers regard vocational qualifications as equally attractive as academic ones, but employees are still unsure of its value, according to a report by Cranfield School of Management and learndirect.

The report, The new vocational currency: investing for success, found a third of employers would consider paying a salary premium for candidates with Level 3 qualifications, rising to 40% for Level 4 qualifications.

Employers were positive about the impact of vocational training on their employees, with 72% agreeing it leads to increased knowledge and understanding, 66% saying it developed new skills, and 54% saying it leads to better business performance.

However, the research shows employers views on vocational training contrasts sharply with that of employees. About a third of employees said academic qualifications were valued more highly by employers and only 12% said vocational qualifications were seen as more valuable.

"There's a perception gap," said Emma Parry, author of the report and reader of human resource management at Cranfield School of Management.

"There's been a lot of talk about how employers prefer academic qualifications to vocational ones, but our research shows this isn't the case. It's about communication. We need to raise awareness [of vocational qualifications] not just in schools, but also among parents and other gatekeepers."

Industry response

The findings of the research were discussed at a recent HR magazine roundtable, sponsored by learndirect and due to appear on HRTV this month.

Jabbar Sardar, head of HR and OD at family courts service Cafcass, said he encourages his staff to take part in accredited vocational training and it has brought "significant business benefits in terms of productivity, engagement, recruitment and retention".

It's a view held by Karen Ancira, head of OD at KFC UK & Ireland, which offers a range of vocational training opportunities for staff at all levels. Ancira said while employers value vocational training, young people aren't aware of the opportunities available.

"Government and employers need to give more credibility to vocational qualifications," she said. "It can be difficult to convey the message that they will help improve their lives in general."

Report download: The new vocational currency: investing for success

*Full coverage of the roundtable will appear in the August issue of HR magazine and on HRTV.