The steady escalation of graduate figures over the past several decades was a result of the decision of many UK families in the post war period to encourage their young people to pursue a tertiary education. That trend became especially visible over the last thirty-four years, with 13% of school leavers choosing a university education in 1981 against the staggering 40% of today (Lindley and Machin, 2012). Yet though one would expect this development to bode as a good omen, a direct effect has been that our ever exigent service industry now shows a discrepancy between skills demanded by its newly-created vacancies and the current qualifications of many of today’s jobseekers. So though the high-skilled jobs are certainly still out there, they have effectively been outrun by an exponential increase in low-skilled work. The upshot has been that of more graduates accepting low-skilled jobs while a rising number of vacancies remain simply unfilled owing to a lack of targeted skills in health care and leisure, among others (i.e. jobs which do not necessarily require a degree), consequently compromising growth in these sectors as well.
This all paints a picture of vocational education as the new kid on the block in terms of its anticipated prominence in tomorrow’s workplace, given that a technical qualification or apprenticeship already begins to enjoy more privileged employee consideration for occupations in such areas as public administration, trades and the social services.
With a view to examining the current quality of dialogue between regional business communities and institutes of vocational and technical training, a consortium of partners comprising Slovenia, Poland, the UK, Turkey and Portugal has been jointly researching the role played by enterprises, civic organizations, NGOs, local authorities, universities in vocational education. The outcome of its two-year study, financed by the EU’s Leonardo programme, includes an e-book publication of guidelines detailing statistical and survey data from all these countries, due by late September 2015. It will report on the existing learning requirements of students and enterprises in vocational and technical schools, provide indications on how enterprises can best support such training and offer career-planning troubleshooters to students. Finally, it will focus upon the existing involvement of third parties in vocational training.