Vocational Qualifications

A rewarding aspect of managing my website (1) is the feedback in emails I receive from readers. Whether positive or negative this is always welcome and valuable. Sadly a recurring theme highlights the continuing negative perception of vocational and commercial qualifications.
One theme often expressed is readers’ experience of negative attitudes to their vocational qualifications when they apply for jobs or further study or training. These qualified people studied for various technical and commercial awards over the past few decades, managed and offered by a number of agencies which did not involve the so called academic awards e.g., ‘O’ levels, GCSEs . ‘A’ levels and university degrees.
Their experience has been that these qualifications are often not recognised at all when they apply for jobs or further studies. Over the past few decades a number of initiatives were established that attempted to introduce a long overdue set of nationally accepted vocational and commercial awards. These included the numerous schemes agreed by the Man Power Services Commission (MSC) and which were offered in Further Education Colleges and private providers. Examples of these initiatives included the Youth Training Scheme, (YTS). Youth Opportunities Programme (YOP) (2).
Another major initiative was the Technical Education Initiative (TVEI) with programmes offering a wide range of awards in FE colleges, schools and private training providers.
In addition a number of separate initiatives including some managed by the Department for Education/Education Department (ED) and the major awarding bodies e.g. CGLI and RSA e.g. Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education (CPVE), General National Vocational Qualifications (GNVQs), Graduate Apprenticeship Diploma (GADs) and Vocational Diplomas (VDs).
Thousands of students studied under these initiatives and gained certificates when successful. The initiatives were never really supported by central government, educationalists and sadly many teachers – those who preferred to extoll the virtues and value of academic awards. The initiatives were short lived and never fully evaluated ever though many of us felt they were bringing about a set of valuable alternatives to the academic wards and creating parity of esteem between these awards.
However the people who contacted me were very concerned about the issues that they had experienced in relation to these awards especially when applying for jobs and further educational studies. The most difficult matters related to obtaining replacement certificates if for instance originals had been lost, mislaid or damaged in the intervening years and they needed the evidence of their achievements.
Individuals found that interviewers knew nothing about the awards or initiatives and insisted on seeing the certificates and diplomas. When people then contacted the colleges, local authorities and the Education Department to get replacement certificates they were told that no records or archives existed.
After receipt of these emails I followed up this issue with the Education Department, Local Authorities and individual colleges mentioned in readers emails describing their experiences without success. They all said that no records are kept or if an archive existed it has been dismantled often stating that they did not have the physical space to store such material!?
In addition to people contacting me I have even been contacted by overseas nations asking about these qualifications following applications by people to enter their countries. The countries have told me that they contacted the Education Department etc. and were told that no details or records were available. I then attempted to describe the awards and there value and received very positive feedback.
It is a classic example of the negative view of vocational qualifications in this country and also the casual disregard of the obligation to store such information about people’s formally recognised national achievements. The academic awards are underpinned by comprehensive recording systems but not so for the vocational awards.
It will be interesting to see if the proposed ‘t’ awards suffer the same fate.
First published in the ETM Journal for the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Engineering in Spring 2019.

(1) www.technicaleducation matters.org
(2) More detail on these initiatives and awards are on the website

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