If less than 10% of Year 11 expressed an interest in pursuing vocational learning as happened in a school I know recently, does it mean there is no demand for such a pathway for young people. No surely not. Rather it illustrates the deeper problem that they are not even aware of the possibility. In reality how many teachers know much about apprenticeships, work based opportunities, what employers really want, the jobs out there? Never mind parents. Education has yet to embrace work related learning as a genuine pathway for some children.
I have been struck by the hundreds of firms, both large and small, signing up to partner emerging University Technical Colleges (UTCs) so that they can influence the teaching and training we give to our youngsters. Project based learning, solving real problems, creating new designs, this is what vocational learning offers. Students must of course have the basic grounding in the core curriculum to GCSE and preferably to A Level.
We need employees with advanced technical skills in a range of industries and not just on engineering and construction. I wear an UP Band to monitor my steps and sleep. Health and care workers depend on technical equipment. So does the related industry of Sport. Performing arts and broadcast media need highly skilled technicians.
UTCs bring industry into schools to team teach the skills they need and raise awareness of the jobs on offer. However we need this in all schools. Technicians and teachers working together to integrate teaching and learning and it’s not easy but it is possible as is being evidenced across the country. Let’s hope these UTCs lead the way to a much more open school system that embraces technology and employment opportunities and ensures children across the age range are aware of their opportunities. Genuine choice will mean more youngsters will be attracted to industry wide opportunities and they will benefit as will the country. It must be higher than 10% per school.