Challenging stereotypes about vocational qualifications

We know there is a stigma attached to vocational qualifications. Research by the Edge Foundation and our partners shows that many parents think vocational learning is great but not for their own children. Similarly, teachers are less likely to talk to students about apprenticeships than about UCAS.

One reason is that people are too quick to put all technical, practical and vocational learning in a single a box marked ‘manual labour’. But to make a point that’s perfectly obvious to AAT, not all vocational qualifications involve overalls and a wrench.

Another reason is that people think the world is neatly divided into two camps: academic and vocational. They think one is “better” than the other and that choosing one rules out the other. Wrong on both counts!

Edge launched VQ Day as a way of challenging outdated ideas by shining a spotlight on vocational success. VQ Awards have been won by learners, teachers and employers across a huge range of occupations, sectors and ages.

AAT qualified, David Hassall, opened up his own bookkeeping business at the age of 17.

For example, our East Midlands VQ Learner of the Year in 2013, David Hassall, proved that age is no barrier if you’ve got ambition and focus up your sleeve. He started his own bookkeeping business aged just 17 and quickly completed all four levels of the AAT accounting qualification. As business grew, David went on to fund his own employees through the AAT qualification.

Another VQ Day success story is Rachael De Bose. Rachael had been an office manager for just three weeks when the bookkeeper of her company unexpectedly quit. Despite having no financial experience she was tasked with replacing him. Alongside a 45 hour working week, Rachael completed all three levels of the AAT qualification in eight months with exceptional pass rates throughout.

Real life stories like these are at the very heart of our approach to VQ Day. Yes, we need hard facts and figures  and we have plenty of them but journalists, teachers, parents and young people also need to hear about people who have taken the vocational path to success. What did they do? How did they do it? Where are they now? What are their ambitions for the future?

Breaking down stereotypes isn’t easy. If it was they simply wouldn’t exist. However, events like VQ Day chip away at pre-conceived ideas and help us work towards an education and training system that gives everyone a choice of learning experiences based on their individual motivation, talents and aspirations.

This year’s VQ Day is on 10th of June and with the VQ Awards deadline on the 1st May, we’re making a last push for nominations. Our three awards are VQ Learner of the Year, sponsored by OCR; VQ Employer of the Year, sponsored by City & Guilds; and VQ Teacher of the Year, sponsored by the Education and Training Foundation. These awards celebrate the students, teachers and employers who take, support and promote vocational qualifications.

Rachael De Bose completed the AAT qualification in eight months with exceptional pass rates.

If you know someone who deserves recognition, please take this opportunity to nominate them – all nomination forms for all awards can be found here.

David Harbourne is Director of Policy and Research at the Edge Foundation.

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