“When I was at school it was as if university was the only choice”
Emma Mason
Trainee accountant

Many young people who chose a vocational route over an academic one say they were actively discouraged from following that path, a survey suggests.

Among 1,000 people questioned who followed a vocational option, just a quarter said their parents had thought it was worthwhile.

One in five respondents were told they were “too clever” for vocational education.

At the same time, about one-third said their school supported their choice.

But a similar number were told they would be “more successful” if they took an academic route.

Among those who chose academia, two-thirds said their school supported their decision.

The survey was carried out in January by OnePoll, for the Edge education foundation, among a total of 2,230 people in the UK aged 18 to 35 who are working full-time.

Roughly half of those taking part had followed a vocational route and the other half an academic one.

The research also looked at how happy both groups were in terms of their career choice, pay, success and overall job satisfaction and found “little difference” between them.

Emma Mason, 24, went to university to study accountancy and finance but soon wished she had gone straight in to the sector.

“When I was at school it was as if university was the only choice,” she said.

“It was, ‘Of course I’m going to uni,’ and all my friends were going.”

But she stayed just six weeks before leaving to train as an accountant with a company and is on her way to being a chartered accountant.

“I’m so pleased I made the decision. My only regret is not looking in to the options and not having anyone to give me the option of starting work.

“I’m getting qualified and I’m working – getting paid to learn instead of being at uni and paying to learn.”
‘Unjust stigma’

Jan Hodges, chief executive of the Edge Foundation, said the research showed young people could have successful and fulfilling careers whichever path they took.

“It is disappointing that so few parents and teachers see vocational education as being worthwhile. The stigma attached… is old-fashioned and unjust,” she said.

“A skilled workforce is essential to the UK economy and high quality vocational routes need to be available and encouraged.”

Many schools offer vocational as well as academic subjects for pupils aged 14 and over, and new University Technical Colleges and studio schools are opening in England, offering a mix of practical and academic learning.

Recently, England’s Department for Education brought in separate league tables for qualifications taken by 16- to 18-year-olds, splitting them into vocational and academic qualifications.


For decades vocational education has suffered from the twin curses of low status and limited innovation. Politicians have equated higher education with traditional universities of the sort that they themselves attended. Parents have steered children away from “shop class”. And vocational studies have been left to languish: the detritus of an industrial era rather than the handmaiden of a new economy.

A recent report from a management consultancy, McKinsey, called “Education to Employment: Getting Europe’s Youth into Work”, paints a dismal picture of the state of vocational education. In four of the seven countries surveyed, more than half of young people taking an academic course said they would have preferred a vocational one. But they had been put off by disorganization and lack of prestige. Britain has more than 20,000 vocational qualifications offered by 150 different bodies. In America responsibility is scattered among government departments.

The great exception to this has always been Germany, of course. But now there are signs that other countries are trying to turn a back road into an Autobahn. Politicians are banging the drum for vocational education. Australia, for example, has created a Workforce and Productivity Agency. Educational innovators are flooding into the vocational market.

There are good reasons why vocational education should be gaining ground. The world is plagued by youth unemployment. In the EU about a quarter of 15- to 25-year-olds are jobless. The figure is lower in America (15%) but still remarkably high for a country that once prided itself on having full employment and a flexible labour market.

At the same time firms complain bitterly about skills shortages: 27% of European employers surveyed by McKinsey said they have left a vacancy open in the past year because they cannot find anyone with the right attributes; a third said that lack of skills is causing big problems for their business.

The university bubble is also beginning to burst. Democratizing universities has proved an expensive and inefficient way of providing mass higher education. Americans, who led the way, have taken on more than $1 trillion in student debt. But a growing number think that they got poor value for money — taught by PhD students not professors, forced to subsidize expensive research programmes and administrative cadres, and provided, at the end of it all, with a college diploma that no longer automatically brings a desirable job.

Frustration with the status quo is at last leading to a burst of innovation. The internet is well suited to vocational education: it helps reduce costs while making it easier to earn a living while doing some vocational training. Just as important is the birth of a new concept of what is being delivered.

“Competency-based education” sounds tedious but reverses most of the basic tenets of academic teaching. It tries to transmit mastery of work-related skills (or “competences”) rather than command of a particular academic discipline. It is designed for a world of lifelong learning rather than the “three or four years and you’re done” university system. Knowledge is broken up into bite-sized “modules”.

Students take these modules at their own convenience — over months or years, in the evenings or by attending full-time courses — and combine them in whatever way makes the most sense for their careers. Evaluation is continuous as students master different skills, rather than embodied in a single degree certificate: your CV provides a constantly updated summary of the skills that you have acquired.

This mixture of new technology and different methods of teaching is attracting a host of entrants, from universities looking for customers to innovators hoping to create new businesses. Southern New Hampshire University College of America paved the way by offering competency-based degrees for $2,500 a year.

Other early adopters include the University of Wisconsin’s UW Flex and Capella University’s FlexPath. Udacity, an online-education firm, has teamed up with companies such as AT&T to provide “nano-degrees”: job-related qualifications that can be completed in six to 12 months for $200 a month. Dev Bootcamp offers a nine-week course for code developers paid for partly by a success fee. The firm charges employers for each graduate hired, after they complete 100 days on the job, and at the same time reimburses students a significant portion of their tuition fees.
Vocation, vocation, vocation

In a new e-book Clayton Christensen, of Harvard Business School, and Michelle Weise, of the Christensen Institute, argue that this presages a revolution: students will be able to take courses that provide them with essential skills quickly and cheaply. The great disrupter of higher education will not be MOOCs (massive online open courses), they insist: these mostly focus on delivering standard academic education over the internet and suffer from drop-out rates of up to 95%.

Rather, it will be a new approach to learning which makes plenty of use of the internet but ties education more closely to work. The emphasis on competences rather than subjects will make vocational education better suited to post-industrial economies. It will also challenge the dominance of universities as students realise that they no longer have to amass huge debts in order to acquire marketable skills.

Mr Christensen and Ms Weise may be going too far when they claim that disruption will spread throughout the university system. There will still be a place for academic study and small classes. But vocational innovation will certainly produce a more dynamic educational marketplace–and one, moreover, that provides an honored position for vocational colleges, rather than treating them as an embarrassing sideshow.

Read more:

Redefining Capitalism by McKinsey & Company

Capitalism is under attack. The financial crisis of 2008, the stagnation of the middle class in many developed countries, and rising income inequality are challenging some of our most deeply held beliefs about how a fair and well-functioning society should be organized.

The Land of Grace – a tribute to the development of our all-new holistic youth transformation campus at Kalumpang, Hulu Selangor.

It is with utmost pride and honor that we introduced our developing land to our students, supporters, stakeholders and donors; in the company of our staff team, management team & board of directors. We organized a day trip to the land being developed, to give a real feel to all the people behind our progress and achievements thus far and to motivate further participation in our mission to transform the lives of at-risk youth in Malaysia. The delegation was brought to witness the potential of the land area and to visualize the existence of an operational transformational facility on the land itself; by being physically present at the location. It is imperative that we immerse our stakeholders in the development and it is all about being personal; as we fondly believe.

The immersion and inclusiveness of the community in our progress is vital to sustainability of our transformation of at-risk youth. It is always good to first-hand show, the extent of our involvement in the mission and how involvement of everyone is able to catapult the success rate of youths being transformed into capable and competent citizens.

In a snapshot; green views, breezy winds, misty evenings and majestic mountains flank the developing land at Kalumpang, Hulu Selangor. It is a MUST to allow the opportunity of visual and surreal appreciation of the benefits afforded by the location and grace of the beneficially developing land.

Our very own holistic youth transformation campus at Kalumpang, Hulu Selangor;

by Everyone, for Everyone.

IM4U & MySkills Foundation – Deepam 4U Event

iM4U’s mission is to help and nurture youth volunteerism plus social activism amongst Malaysian youth via the DRe1M (Dana Sukarelawan 1Malaysia) Fund creating a platform for Malaysian youth to carry out volunteer and nation building activities that can benefit communities and social groups.

In celebration of Deepavali, 1M4U partnered with MySkills Foundation in organizing a social event, inviting shelter homes, schools and youth training centers from around Klang Valley. The event was hosted by well-known entertainers; Ram and Anantha of THR Raaga and performances by the invited guests themselves. The highlight of the event was the volunteering spirit of our MySkills Foundation students; offering to help clean, decorate, cook and serve & perform at the celebratory event.

Our youths helped to cook and prepare savouries for the guests, at the event hall itself. We prepared decoratives from recycled waste, to beautify the hall and volunteered in large numbers to clean the hall prior to the event. The event marked the start of Deepavali week and encouraged a celebratory mood and spirit amongst our youths, as they prepared to return to their homes for a break. We believe in exposing our youths to lending a helping hand for a communal benefit; in an exciting and colorful environment.

We mean what we say, ‘Transforming Youths Beyond Skills’.

Skilled Manpower in demand to achieve high income status and Vision 2020

“Only 10% of SPM holders pursue technical skills” – Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Abdul Muttalib

HANOI: Malaysia still lacks potential skilled manpower to meet the country’s demand, said Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Abdul Muttalib.

He said only 10% of Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) holders had opted to pursue technical and vocational skills.

“We are emphasising more on academic excellence, while in developed countries such as South Korea and Australia, more than 40% of the youths are in the technical and vocational field.

“This shows that we are lagging in terms of producing skilled manpower as opposed to our country’s demand in its aspirations to achieve high income status by 2020,” he said.

He was visiting the Malaysian contingent comprising 51 youths from skills institutes in Malaysia who are participating in the 10th Asean Skills Competition, which began on Oct 19 and ends tomorrow, at the National Convention Centre, here today.

Ismail said skilled workers in Malaysia made up only around 28% of the overall manpower, lower than the 33% and 50% target for 2015 and 2020 respectively.

In this regard, the Education Ministry has raised its target of technical and vocational students to 20%, he said. – Bernama


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