Skills 'more useful than degrees'

09-11-2004

Most young people think learning work skills is more important than gaining a degree, a survey suggests.

SkillCity, which promotes vocational teaching, found 61% of those aged 16 to 24 believed this to be the case.

Meanwhile, half of the 500 people interviewed thought learning work-based skills was the best way to a good career.

Only 28% of the UK workforce has apprenticeship-level skills, compared with 65% in Germany, SkillCity said.

'Huge potential'

However, the survey found 69% of young people thought high-quality training was available to school-leavers.

Concerns over large debts also served to make this route to employment more popular than going to university.

Sir George Russell, chairman of the SkillCity advisory board, said: "Today there is huge potential for people choosing skills-based careers.

"Not only do they offer good long-term employment prospects, but the skills deficit in the UK means there are plenty of opportunities among an incredibly diverse range of vocational careers. Young people with the right vocational skills are in demand."

Last week a government-appointed working group on education for 14 to 19 year olds in England recommended more vocational training in schools.

The wide, and often confusing, range of current vocational options would be covered by the planned diploma system it has proposed.

Children as young as 14 would be able to attend colleges specialising in work skills, such as construction, hairdressing and catering. Similar schemes are already being piloted in some areas.

But before passing a diploma, students would also have to show "functional" skills in English, maths and information technology.

The CBI has described the lack of these among prospective employees as a "national scandal".

Businesses also complain that vocational training does not get the prominence it deserves and is a victim of educational "snobbery".

In another development, university students are now able to take two-year "foundation" degrees in vocational subjects.

Sir George said: "It's heartening to see young people recognising the validity of vocational careers and training.

"A highly skilled workforce is vitally important to society and to the economy, but traditional academic subjects shouldn't be seen as the first choice for all.

"Ultimately, there needs to be a balance and that means more people choosing vocational study and careers than they are today."

SkillCity is hosting a four-day careers at ExCel, east London, from 6 to 9 July next year. It is expected to attract 120,000 people aged 12 to 30.

BBC News

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