Are some people simply too clever for vocational education?
Nearly a quarter of young people were told that exact thing, according to new research from The Edge Foundation. That's not surprising when you consider that less than a third of parents surveyed think that vocational education is worthwhile.
What parents think about education has an enormous influence on what choices their kids make. In fact, City & Guilds Group research shows that over a third of employed young people were motivated to choose their current job by their parents. The influence of parents is even more relevant now considering how many young people are struggling to find work.
Interestingly, our own research shows that 72% of employers believe that vocational qualifications are essential for preparing young people for the world of work.
So why don't parents recognise the benefits of or see the opportunities it can lead to? Why do they believe university is the only ticket to a 'good job'?
Now as a parent, I understand the desire to give your child the best possible chance at a successful, happy life. I also realise that some jobs do require degrees. However there are countless others that don't, and I think it's extremely destructive for students to believe they are somehow disadvantaged by choosing a path other than uni.
Every young person deserves to know all of their options. Besides, if parents don't know about or promote different ways into the workplace, who will? How will we change perceptions?
I also think employers have a role here. They should step up and offer more guidance. Teachers and parents do their best but can't do it on their own. It seems obvious that if employers are the ones who make hiring decisions, they should tell students what they are looking for.
A great example of this is the Generation Talent programme, which is an initiative from Business in the Community that helps businesses hire more unemployed young people. More involvement from employers can only be a positive thing.
The bottom line is, vocational education which is stretching, rigorous and based on employers' needs is extremely valuable. I know that. Employers know that. Let's get the message out there.