The debate is set to include discussion around vocational pathways, the three million apprenticeships target and focus, and support for vocational education – particularly from employers.
VQ Day celebrates practical and vocational learning in June each year, highlighting the positive benefits of vocational qualifications and raising the perception of vocational achievement as an alternative to academic learning.
Andrew Gladstone-Heighton, Policy Leader at NCFE, said: “We’re pleased to see the eighth annual VQ Day brought into focus with today’s debate. It’s an annual event that NCFE strongly supports, because it provides a platform to give vocational learning – which has long been a robust alternative option to academia for many learners – the recognition it deserves in the education sector.
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“We’re passionate about creating opportunities for learning and achievement for people of all ages – not everyone is suited to the typical academic route and one size doesn’t fit all. Vocational learning has never been so important to both individuals and the economy – high quality vocational courses lead to proven employment opportunities, as they deliver the trained employees that businesses are looking for and provide individuals with the skills they need to succeed.
“Therefore, it’s good news that the government is investing in vocational pathways and setting targets such as the creation of three million apprenticeships. With an apprenticeship, learners can earn while they learn, achieve meaningful qualifications and gain experience, and best of all, the majority of apprentices (85%) will stay in employment.”
Mr Carmichael is also expected to raise the subject of support for vocational education, which Mr Gladstone-Heighton notes is a vital part of the ambitious apprenticeship plans.
He said: “Research we conducted recently showed that 40% of people feel that learners looking to do an apprenticeship aren’t given enough support, so this does need to be looked at. We believe that garnering support from employers is also a priority, which we’ve recognised and as a result we’re currently working with trailblazer groups of employers who are looking to develop high quality apprenticeship standards for their sector.
“While it’s great that the government has set itself such a high target, it must work closely with employers and educators to ensure the high standard of apprenticeship delivery is maintained – quantity must not substitute quality.”
Mr Gladstone-Heighton went on to warn, however, that only supporting more apprenticeships is not enough.
“Unfortunately, the budget pool for 19+ further education and skills continues to shrink as it is an ‘unprotected’ government department. While apprenticeship funding is likely to be afforded certain security within this, adult education in the main is likely to come in for greater cuts. Adult education is integral in an aging population where people are retiring later and having multiple careers within their working life, and the potential loss of courses that upskill and keep the UK’s workforce competitive is a cause for concern.
“The aim of VQ Day is to stress the benefits of vocational learning, and we would really like to see its importance acknowledged with commitment from the government to safeguarding funding for vocational qualifications with a wider focus beyond apprenticeships.”