'Little's Britain'

Commissioner's cynical comment

London (UK), September 2011 - (by Bob Little) Among the key findings of a European Commission "Eurobarometer" survey on "Attitudes towards vocational education and training" are: Vocational education and training - in which nearly half of all Europeans choose to enrol after their compulsory education - has a generally positive image among most age groups. And: This is principally because it is seen as comprising high quality training and offers strong job prospects to those who do it.

However, only 27% of young people aged between 15 and 24 say they would recommend vocational education and training to their peers.

According to the report, 47% of EU citizens were, or are currently, enrolled in vocational education and training. There are, however, large differences between countries. As many as 76% (in the Netherlands), 70% (Slovakia) and 66% (the Czech Republic) have experienced vocational education and training - but this is the case for only 24% in Portugal and Spain and 27% in Malta.

When asked about the image of vocational education and training in their country, 71% said it was positive and 23% viewed it as negative. The highest degrees of positive responses were recorded in Malta (92%), Finland (90%) and Austria (88%), with the least being in Slovenia and the Netherlands (both 50%), Hungary and Belgium (both 59%).

The survey was conducted through face-to-face interviews with 27, 000 people across all EU Member States.

Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "Investing in vocational education and training is one of the best ways of combating youth unemployment. By creating high quality training, we enable young people to boost their personal development and acquire the kind of specific and transferable skills which employers need. But, despite its advantages, vocational education and training is failing to attract enough young people."

The Commissioner's comments seem rather confused. Either vocational education and training is a good way of combatting youth unemployment - by excluding them from the unemployment statistics as much as fitting them for jobs when the training course is completed - or it develops the skills which employers need.

In today's currently fast-paced world of work where some skills are becoming redundant as the speed of technology gathers pace, while new skills are emerging where there are very few qualified trainers to develop them, the problem is that training establishments are not flexible enough to offer the sort of vocational training in the quantities and quality that employers want.

So, in reality, the Commissioner's first - and much more cynical - comment holds more truth. Vocational education and training's function is, primarily, to keep people off the unemployment statistics and so make politicians in government at any level "look good".

For over 20 years, Bob Little has specialised in writing about, and commentating on, corporate learning - especially elearning - and technology-related subjects. His work has been published in the UK, Continental Europe, the USA and Australia.
You can contact Bob.