Last updated: 02.12.11

Vocational training 'is often better than academic qualifications'

For a long time, higher education has been seen as the only route to a successful career; a university degree was essential if you wanted to go far. These days that view has largely fallen by the wayside, as more and more people attain undergraduate degrees. Vocational training is being increasingly recognised for its value, especially for adult learners.

Public Perception of Vocational Training

For decades parents, students and teachers have seen the traditional A-levels as the only route in higher education and have stigmatised Vocational training. However with the rising cost of university fees, major competition within the graduate job market and no job guaranteed job at the end of their studies, vocational training has developed into a much more appealing option for those who want to work and learn in job markets with high demand for skilled labour.


Online courses can help adults and those looking for work to build on their skills suitable to a particular job. One expert has suggested that vocational training could better prepare a person looking to get into employment than the previously favoured academic qualifications.

A representative from Quest Professional, which offers a variety of professional training programmes, said skills that prepare a jobseeker for a specific field of work could make their chances of landing a job more promising.

Jo Barnard, director at the company, which aims to help those who have recently left education, said: "We have a responsibility to ensure that we give young people practical training and are honest with them, in terms of what employers are looking for."

Academic vs vocational

She added that currently, ideas surrounding education are mainly focused on gaining academic training in subjects such as history and English, whereas vocational, hands-on qualifications would make an individual more prepared to start a position in the relevant field of work without the need for intensive initial training.

"I think for employers, really looking for young people to have the right attitude [is important]. [They should] have a good appreciation of being able to take responsibility, work independently if necessary [and] contribute [to the workplace]," Ms Barnard added.

Students leaving higher education and those who have been out of a job for a while do often find work, according to the expert, but this is often backed up by work experience and internships, further highlighting the need for practical experience.

Workplace training

In 2011, the government released its Review of Vocational Education - The Wolf Report, which showed that there are currently around 2.5 million young people aged 14 to 19 in full or part-time education. Jonathan Swan, research and policy manager at Working Families, the UK's leading work-life balance organisation, also commented that flexible online training programs in the workplace will allow companies to attract the best staff. He said that those looking for a job will often favour employers who provide on-site training at the beginning of a job and that such opportunities will continue throughout the role.

Take a look at our selection of industry online training courses here.