Boris Johnson’s viewpoint on vocational training is ‘mistaken and elitist’

Boris Johnson shows both an extraordinary elitism and a sad lack of comprehension of the implications of the impending UK skills gap, and the real value of vocational qualifications to the future of young people and the UK economy (News, Personnel Today, 16 May).

Today, growing numbers of young graduates are pursuing a vocational qualification to supplement their degrees. These graduates have not been “lobotomised”, nor have they been turned away from degree courses by the government. Rather, they are pursuing valid alternatives to traditional academic courses and arming themselves with valuable skills to give them the edge in an increasingly competitive workforce.

Just to confirm the trend, more young people now move from university to vocational education each year than move in the other direction.

They are also beginning to enjoy considerable financial benefits from this extension to their learning. The big corporate recruiters represented by the Association of Graduate Recruiters may still be paying a premium for the cream of graduates, but last year’s University of Swansea research confirms that graduate starting salaries have been falling, and the average starting salary is now only about £14,500.

Many vocational starting salaries are now higher, and vocational progression opportunities are improving – this is why increasing numbers of young people are going straight for the vocational option from school. No-one is saying vocational is better than academic; we’re saying there is a need for a better balance in the workforce. The UK (except, apparently, Boris Johnson) at last seems to be approaching a point where the status and pay of jobs in both academic and vocational roles are coming into better balance.

Chris Humphries, director-general, City & Guilds


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