By AAT Comment AAT news VQ day 2014: AAT looks at what makes vocational excellence 10 Apr 2014 Vocational excellence deserves to be celebrated says Jan Hodges, CEO from the Edge Foundation, the independent education charity. Now in its seventh year, VQ Day (4 June 2014) celebrates those who have achieved success as a result of their VQ (vocational qualification). The success of VQ Day has grown dramatically year on year. It’s not surprising considering the current economic climate we now find ourselves in. Youth unemployment remains high in the UK and we do have a skill shortage across many industries. Many people are questioning a university education so high value vocational routes are a viable alternative into a wide range of professional jobs and give people lifelong careers. VQ day is a nationwide celebration involving hundreds of events and activities to really highlight the important role vocational education plays in our society and economy adds Jan Hodges. Three past winners that all started their journey with AAT tell us what they’ve been up to since winning a VQ award. Paul Buzzard, Member in Practice and Distance Learning Tutor at Home Learning College I gained a VQ award back in 2008. It was a great feeling to be recognised with such an award and to promote the benefits of both vocational and lifelong learning. I was studying in my fifties, having left my career in teaching to become a full-time career for my disabled daughter. I needed a qualification that was flexible to allow me to work round my other commitments. AAT suited me down to a T. “I’m proud to look back to see what I’ve gained since winning a VQ award. I set up a successful accountancy business employing two people. This business is now run by my wife as I’ve returned to the career I love, teaching. I’m a distance learning tutor as well as Chartered Accountant with both CIPFA and ACCA. I hope I inspire others – career changing and upskilling is possible at any age in life and takes you to new and exciting places. David Hassall, Business owner of DH Business Support I opened my bookkeeping business at 17. I dropped out of school and had a plan to start out on my own. People thought I was mad and that university was the only route to gain a prosperous and fruitful career. I studied AAT and was applying the knowledge directly into my start-up business. I was gaining more and more clients; I was earning money and I was learning on my feet. Last year it was a real honour to be recognised with a VQ award for Learner of the Year for the East Midlands. Not only is it nice to be recognised for all the hard work but it gives you time to reflect on where you’ve come from. Gaining a qualification is one thing but doing something useful with it is the hard bit. Luckily since winning the award; I have been growing my business at a significant pace. I now employ six people and a good handful of employees are studying AAT qualifications. I have purchased one new company and have another in my sight. My business is evolving and I’m at the forefront of that. I feel I can take risks and I’ve learnt more than I ever would have at university. Rachael De Bose, part qualified accountant at Michaelides Warner & Co I’m now actually just over half way through my studies with ACCA to become an accountant. When I look back to winning the VQ award in 2012 for Learner of the Year for London it really was an exciting time for me. I had fallen into studying again as I was in a job in which I was taking over the books and needed to learn about finance fast. Luckily for me it opened up doors as I discovered not only was I good at accountancy (passing all my exams in record time) but it became my new passion and has given me a new career path. Now I’m hoping to finish all my ACCA exams by Christmas. I’ve also changed jobs. I now work as a part-qualified accountant in an accountancy firm. I love it. The greatest thing about winning a VQ award was realising that all the hard work counts but perhaps more importantly it gave me the motivation to want to strive for more and to reach my full potential.” To learn more about VQ awards or to nominate an outstanding student, tutor or employer please visit the VQ website. AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.