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Vocational skills 'more valuable' than academic qualifications, say employers

Employers are increasingly placing greater value on vocational skills than academic qualifications, a study has found.

Almost three-quarters of employers see vocational qualifications (VQs) as essential for improving the skills of young people and preparing them for work, with more than half rating VQs "more valuable" than academic qualifications.

The study polled more than 1,000 businesses on their attitude towards vocational and academic qualifications. It was carried out by the Edge Foundation and City & Guilds, bodies that promote and develop vocational training programmes.

It found employers feel young people need to be made more aware of the options available to them to progress in their chosen career. Other findings include:

  • 78% agreed that young people who preferred practical learning need a better alternative route to A-levels.
  • 83% said young people needed better advice on the career options open to them.
  • 84% also agreed that pupils needed more robust work experience while they were still at school.

City & Guilds CEO Chris Jones said the current system is "failing young people" and not preparing them for the world of work. He also said society places "too much emphasis on academia".

"Employers are crying out for young people who have the right skills to add value to their business," Jones said. "Vocational qualifications can provide these skills, but how many people know about them. Careers advice provision in schools is limited, uninspiring and often purely focused on university."

Jan Hodges, the CEO of Edge Foundation, added: "We have skills gaps emerging in many sectors within the UK and it is crucial that young people are given the right training and encouragement to be able to fill these gaps."