5 vocational myths to avoid

A checklist for politicians who want to talk about vocational education and apprenticeships during the election campaign:

Myth 1. The vocational route is a practical alternative to university

Many students on advanced vocational courses progress to university and these courses are a good preparation for a range of degrees. They include theoretical and practical content.

Myth 2. We have youth unemployment because our vocational education is not good

Youth unemployment is not caused by a lack of education. Our vocational qualifications mostly do not train people for specific jobs, they are a good general preparation for employment or further study.

Myth 3. Skill shortages are a failure of the education system

If employers in some sectors are finding it hard to recruit staff with the specific skills they need, they should invest in training or offer higher wages. The education system cannot anticipate specific skills needs in every sector.

Myth 4. Better vocational courses will help to reduce youth unemployment

Education does not create jobs, it can prepare people to be strong candidates for jobs when they are available.

Myth 5. More apprenticeships are the answer to youth unemployment

Apprenticeships are jobs. Creating more apprenticeships requires the creation of more entry-level jobs. This is a good idea but it is an economic policy, not an education policy.


Education is a good thing in itself. Skilled and knowledgeable young people are more likely to make a positive economic and social contribution. We should not blame unemployment or economic stagnation on the education system or the young people who come through it. We should ensure that everyone has access to a good broad, stretching curriculum which gives people the best foundations of knowledge and skill to progress to a wide range of employment, training or higher education opportunities. Sorting young people into narrow ‘vocational’ or ‘academic’ categories does not serve them or the economy well.

See also:

Bacc on the agenda (March 2015)

Vocational education: rejecting the narrative of failure (Jan 2015)

Guess what? Vocational students go to university too (March 2014)



About Eddie Playfair

I am a Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) having previously been a college principal for 16 years and a teacher before that. I live in East London and I blog in a personal capacity about education and culture. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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