‘Getting Qualified in Woodwork’: Young people’s reasons for choosing VET programmes in the UK

Liz Atkins

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This paper reports on a qualitative study carried out in the UK during summer 2010 on behalf of City and Guilds Centre for Skills Development (CSD). The study formed part of a wider, international project which aimed to explore young people’s perceptions of vocational education and training (VET), and as such is of significance in the Australian context: it also formed part of the evidence for the influential Wolf Review of Vocational Education which reported to the UK government in 2011. The study found that serendipity, contingent events and influence of significant others are most influential in choice of vocational programme and that young peoples’ understandings of possible career paths vary in sophistication, differentiated by age, programme level and subject area. Perceived attractiveness of VET was closely associated with societal perception of their courses (which the young people considered to be negative) suggesting that, in the UK, pre-Coalition policy (before May 2010) has been unsuccessful in addressing issues of parity of esteem, despite considerable policy investment in the VET sector. The paper explores the implications of these findings for the ‘English model’ of Vocational Education in the context of current Coalition policy. It concludes that whilst some recent policy initiatives, such as the proposed introduction of University Technical Colleges may be successful in raising the esteem of some forms of specialised VET, broad vocational courses at lower levels will continue to be held in lower esteem and to confer little educational advantage on those young people, largely drawn from working class backgrounds and displaying multiple exclusionary characteristics, who pursue them.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2014
Event23rd National Vocation Education and Training Research Conference - Melbourne
Duration: 10 Jul 2014 → …


Conference23rd National Vocation Education and Training Research Conference
Period10/07/14 → …


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