In the past few weeks the government has announced that many GCSE equivalent qualifications won’t count towards future school league tables. As someone who has witnessed first-hand how beneficial vocational courses can be in training individuals to operate in a range of business areas, I feel it is important to question what impact this will have on the SME which ultimately employ the young people with affected educational choices.
In particular the Government’s plan to downgrade the value of the Engineering Diploma from the equivalent of five GCSEs to just one has outraged the engineering community. At a time when UK skills shortages are being highlighted, I would join them in questioning this move, as anything that will further discourage young people to study the subject can surely not be beneficial to industry.
Thankfully it was saved from the axe, and whilst one can appreciate the need to cull some lesser qualifications, especially those which could be said to help some schools boost their rankings I remain concerned about the longer term impact of reducing the value of this qualification.
Our experience at the North East BIC, in running such initiatives as the Big Ideas Youth Challenge, and having involvement with organizations including Young Enterprise, has shown us how complementary activity can help to bridge the gap between young people and SMEs
Likewise schools will still be able to run vocational courses, and in a number of instances I am sure schools will see the benefits of running these programmes for not only do students of vocational courses benefit greatly from the hands-on experiences they provide, but employers receive staff members who are ready to hit the ground running.
However in some instances recognition of the intensity of the course is required and at time when skills gaps continue to widen I have difficulty in understanding why the engineering diploma was downgraded so severely.