NIACE view on vocational qualifications welcomed in Westminster

5 June 2013

A parliamentary debate on the future of further education, held in Westminster Hall on Tuesday 4 June, quoted NIACE’s calls for a more flexible approach to the delivery of adult vocational qualifications, ahead of the celebration of vocational learning on VQ Day.

Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin, the former college principal, who initiated the debate, said:

“[An] area of concern relates to adult reskilling, particularly when trying to support and encourage people out of worklessness into employment. The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, which has a long history of success in this arena, makes a strong argument for allowing flexibility and bite-sized learning to be funded in a way that supports learners and employers.”

Nic Dakin went on to quote from a recent NIACE policy briefing which states that, ‘adult vocational qualifications need to be recognised by learners and employers as well as providing flexibility in terms of design and credit accumulation. Our work with learners, employers and providers has shown that the unitised and credit accumulation approach, which the Qualifications and Credit Framework allows, is powerful in helping people get into work and to improve their skills.’

Nic Dakin added:

“In addition, it is clear that vocational skills delivery for the unemployed requires much more effective join-up between BIS and DWP. The divide between those who are on the Work Programme and those who are the responsibility of Jobcentre Plus does not encourage the development of the holistic, collaborative, personalised programmes that are needed to get people into sustainable employment.”

David Hughes, NIACE Chief Executive, said:

“This debate served as a great curtain-raiser for VQ Day and shows how important the English FE sector is in helping adults and young people get the qualifications they need for a strong and sustainable career. Vocational qualifications rightly deserved to be acknowledged and celebrated as other qualifications are. NIACE, particularly, wants to ensure that the Qualifications and Credit Framework is used to give learners and employers access to a broad and flexible system of vocational qualifications. It’s encouraging that the government and opposition share some common ground about where we should be heading even though their routes to get there do differ.

“We believe it’s vital that all qualifications should support people to become confident, self-directed and ambitious learners. Degrees currently offer this flexibility and so should vocational qualifications. We invite the Local Enterprise Partnerships to discuss Nik Dakin’s views on changing skills strategies with us. The dual benefit of this approach will be to allow learners to have choices and allow employers to support the learning which best matches their skills needs.”

Flexible vocational learning opportunities have crucial benefits for individuals and employers alike, which are illustrated clearly through a number of 2013 Adult Learners’ Week award winners. The opportunities given to Jenny Dimmock, who lives with Down’s Syndrome, during a hospital internship have led to a permanent post working closely with scientists in a pathology lab. An apprenticeship gave Emma Rogers the tools to overcome dyslexia, win a national skills competition and start her own successful business, all whilst raising a child. Karen Woods took up learning opportunities whilst working as a cleaner and is now a published author of seven books. Through the Project Control Foundation Scheme, BAE Systems offers valuable work experience and formal qualifications for employees, often producing the company’s future project managers.

NIACE sees boosting skill levels and improving employability as clear evidence of the benefits of public investment in learning which will make a significant contribution to deficit reduction. More details on this are available in The Case for Investment in Learning for Adults which has been issued by NIACE ahead of the forthcoming Spending Review on 26 June.