Vocational education

Young people are an easy target, and talking about employability and skills kills a number of ideological birds in one swoop. But chasing full employability is not a solution to the plight of NEETs and demonising the young and out of work is irresponsible.
Vocational learning is wide ranging and inclusive for all abilities, far more so than many academic styles of learning. We need to encourage a culture where vocational and academic qualifications are seen as equal, and learners follow the route most suited to them with pride.
A report out this summer revealed that only 19.5% of Welsh applications to Oxford and Cambridge were successful during the 2011-12 admissions cycle, compared to a success rate of 25% for England and Northern Ireland... Welsh industry most certainly does require that top level expertise if it is to continue to thrive.
It is an age old stereotype that vocational learning is a last resort for those who have failed academically, a 'plan b' for when exams go wrong and options are limited. As with all stereotypes it is oversimplified and damaging. Putting people in boxes, labelling them one thing or the other is wrong and calling a child 'too clever' for vocational education is no exception.
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.
President Obama recently gave the much-anticipated State of the Union address. It was encouraging to hear that we actually have similar views on education.
It's that time of year again when thousands of young people put the final touches on their UCAS applications, hold their breath and hit 'send'. Then they anxiously wait for weeks until their 'life-altering' results come through. My son went through this process last year. I'll never forget his panicked face as he said, 'What if I don't get any offers?'
Many young adults are returning to school after a long summer and preparing for their final year. They are naturally concerned about their forthcoming exams and already considering which university they would like to attend. Very few of those young adults will be considering an apprenticeship...
When you're choosing a university and a degree course, how do you decide between the myriad of courses available and ensure that you're giving yourself the best start when it comes to finding a job once you've graduated?
The IAC is giving learners something they have not had before - a national voice. The changing landscape of apprenticeships in this country, as Government endeavours to secure the vocational route as a central pathway into fulfilling careers, requires input from those who will be affected - the apprentices themselves.