Schools and families wrongly assume academic routes always lead to greater success and fulfillment than vocational education
Many young people are being actively discouraged from opting for
vocational education - with just a quarter of parents (27%) judging
it to be worthwhile*.
This is despite evidence that people who choose a practical,
hands-on approach to learning are as fulfilled as people who took
an academic route.**
The new study, commissioned by the Edge Foundation, is based on
a survey of over 2,000 18-35 year olds, split between those who had
opted for a vocational education and those who had taken a wholly
Whilst two thirds (65%) of the academic group said they felt
their school supported their choice, only a third (35%) of the
vocational group could say the same. Over a third (36%) of students
who pursued a vocational route were advised by school that they
would be 'more successful' if they chose the academic pathway and
almost a quarter (22%) were told that they were 'too clever' for
Only half (51%) of parents encouraged their child's choice to
pursue vocational qualifications, compared to three quarters (74%)
who were happy to support their child through an academic
But crucially the study reveals that those who pursued
vocational paths are as satisfied with their jobs as their peers
who pursued academic routes. All those surveyed were asked to
rate their current career in relation to factors such as career
choice, salary, success, fulfillment and overall job satisfaction.
The answers reveal remarkably little difference in satisfaction
between people who chose academic and vocational pathways.
Additionally, research from the 2012 First Steps to Wealth
Report, illustrates that the lifetime earnings of a graduate are
comparable with the lifetime earnings of many former apprentices -
for example construction apprentices earn £1,504,000 compared with
£1,612,000 for a graduate.***
Jan Hodges OBE, CEO of the Edge Foundation,
"Our research clearly shows that both academic and vocational
education can lead to successful and fulfilling careers for young
people. It is disappointing that so few parents and teachers see
vocational education as being worthwhile, when in fact both routes
result in similar levels of happiness, job satisfaction and
"The stigma attached to vocational learning is old-fashioned and
unjust. A skilled workforce is essential to the UK economy and high
quality vocational routes need to be available and encouraged. We
are keen to celebrate vocational talent and to raise the esteem of
practical learning - and hope to see as many nominations as
possible for the 2014 VQ Day Awards, which open today."
Nearly a third (31%) of people who went down an academic route
and 35% of vocational learners are not currently working in
industries directly leading from these paths. However, more young
people change their academic routes because it isn't 'right for
them' (32%), compared with just one in five (20%) who take
It seems those that follow an academic path are also more likely
to change their mind about their resulting career (20%) compared to
only 15% of vocational learners, indicating they are being
encouraged down an certain academic route regardless of their
specific skills or interests.
Other key findings from the study include:
- Parents remain the biggest influence on their children's
- School was a big influence for those pursuing academic
education (24%) but not as influential for those who went down a
vocational route (16%
- One in seven (14%) of vocational learners were told by their
school that they would make more money by pursuing an academic
- Almost one in five (19%) leave academic education because they
didn't enjoy it
Calling for excellence in vocational learning, teaching and
employment, nominations for the annual VQ Day Awards are now open.
All nominations forms can be found at: www.vqday.org.uk/vq-awards.
Download the data here.
*Research conducted by OnePoll in January 2014, surveyed 2,230
people aged 18-35 in full time employment in the UK.
**Respondents were asked to score on a scale of 1-10 (where 10 =
***Research sourced from the First Steps to Wealth Report,
published in 2012