Practical Matters: What young people think about vocational education in England, South Africa & the Netherlands

Project background

There is a widespread assumption that young people need to engage in HE, rather than VET for their future progression in to work and to improve their social and economic prosperity – thus messages aimed at young people are skewed towards promoting HE options rather than VET.  The resultant poor perceptions of vocational education can lead young learners to prematurely and unfairly discount this route

Project overview and approach

The City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development has conducted a small scale qualitative research project in England, South Africa and the Netherlands to explore these and other related issues. The project involved a series of focus groups surveys and one-to-one interviews with young people between the ages of 14 and 20 years.

Key findings:

Young people value vocational education and training, but often do not have a full understanding understanding of the employment paths available to them

  • Young people recognise the terms ‘practical learning’ and ‘skills’ more than ‘vocational education and training’. The terminology used by policy makers, practitioners and researchers does not correspond with what young people understand and use.
  • Young people want to know their options and routes for progression. Learners do not understand the learning pathways and options available to them and want to know how they can progress.
  • Young people want to make informed, independent decisions. The careers advice and guidance systems available are not giving young people sufficient information with which to make an informed decision.
  • Young people have opinions on how to improve their education system. Young people are a resource on which policy makers and practitioners can draw, rather than constructing systems around them into which they have little input.

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Poor perceptions of vocational education can lead young learners to prematurely and unfairly disregard this route.

Project Date: March 2010 - January 2011