Vocational Qualifications | Are They Worth It?
There are many different vocational qualifications in a variety of different subject areas. The aim of vocational qualifications is to prepare individuals for a particular career path that will allow them to enter a career in a smooth transition. They are much different to academic qualifications where the aim is to develop skills in a broad area, allowing an individual to be prepared for future study or work.
This article will discuss what a vocational qualification may involve, the success of vocational qualifications as well as their benefits, and conclude to answer the question of “are they worth it?”
What Exactly Are Vocational Qualifications?
A vocational qualification is quite a generic term to describe the way in which skills are assessed and the structures and contents of a course. As discussed above, they are designed to prepare the learner for a smooth transition from education to work. Furthermore, they often range from in-class practical work, work experience within a business or an assessment of skills within a workplace.
In addition, there is not one type of vocational qualification. However, in the UK, the NVQ, National Vocation Qualification is the most popular.
Other types of vocational qualifications include BTECs, apprenticeships and T Levels. All of these types of courses have a common theme of offering practical based learning.
Let us discuss more about these qualifications, on an individual basis.
National Vocational Qualifications were first introduced in 1987 within the UK, however, since then the NVQ has been adapted and changed. It is now considered a workplace qualification that does not involve the use of a classroom. Furthermore, there are NVQ qualifications that you can obtain in levels 1 all the way up to level 7 which is a Master’s Degree level.
In terms of subject areas, there are a huge variety of over 1,000 different areas. You can take an NVQ in everything from plumbing and hairdressing, to social care. All of these subject areas are directly related to a particular job role and will involve working and learning in these professional environments.
Here at the College of Contract Management, we do not miss out on the popularity of these courses. We offer a Level 6 NVQ in Construction Site Management. This NVQ is for all you construction workers who would like to obtain your Black CSCS card, or generally want to demonstrate their skills on-site. The NVQ essentially assesses your day to day activities on site. This qualification is favourable for some as there is no learning new content, you will just have to write reports to demonstrate your skills and facilitate site visits.
BTEC vocational qualifications are usually taken by students in College before they attend university or begin working in a full-time career.
There are also options for BTECs for those who are between the ages of 14-16. These are for those who are studying at GCSE Level. At this level there are BTEC Tech Awards level 1 and 2) and BTEC Firsts (level 2).
However, the most popular BTEC vocational qualifications are BTEC Nationals which are equivalent in standard to A levels as well as BTEC Higher Nationals. These are equivalent to the first and second years of an undergraduate degree.
The College of Contract Management offers a range of BTEC Nationals called Higher National Diplomas or HNDs.
They offer HNDs in Marketing, Business, Accounting and Finance, Law, HR and Entrepreneurship. All of these courses can allow you to study the first two years of a degree before progressing to complete their final year at their chosen university. Of course, students do not have to complete their final year as the HND qualification alone is fantastic for career development.
There are also many BTEC Apprenticeships that can give students the skills equivalent to between level 2 and level 5.
Apprenticeships are a very popular choice of vocational qualification. This is because as an apprentice you are employed within a real job. It is usually expected that 1 or 2 days a week you attend a college or another learning provider and this allows you to obtain a reputable qualification whilst you work.
In addition, in the UK we have 4 different levels of apprenticeship. These are Intermediate (GSCE level), Advanced (A level) Higher (foundation degree) and Degree (Bachelor’s or Master’s).
Like lots of other vocational qualifications, you can take an apprenticeship in just about every job area. However, only some companies will take on apprenticeships which may make it difficult to find one in the exact place you want to work.
What Are The Benefits of Vocational Qualifications?
There are plenty of benefits to vocational qualifications which is why many individuals choose them over academic qualifications. Here is a list that may help you decide if they are worth your time.
They Give You The Confidence To Begin Working Straight Away
With many academic qualifications, there are issues with transferring from a learning environment to a work environment. This can be overwhelming and tiring and many of the tasks may be unfamiliar due to the basis of knowledge being in theory. On the other hand, taking vocational qualifications has allowed you to ease into the environment slowly. You would have already worked for a great deal of time before you started the job. Furthermore, you may even be working a full-time position at the same place that you did your apprenticeship. You will feel confident in the working environment which will help you settle in much easier.
They Are Perfect For Those Who Dislike Exams
With many vocational qualifications, there aren’t usually any exams. There is likely to be coursework, but having to memorise information and sit in an exam hall is off the radar. This is a highly beneficial way of learning for those who find the pressure of examinations too daunting or are better at demonstrating their skills with practical work. After all, examinations are not the determining factor of skills.
Decreased Cost Responsibilities
For academic qualifications such as degrees at university, the costs are extremely high. Not only do you have to pay tuition fees which are currently at around £9K per academic year, but you must also pay for accommodation, resources such as books, food and other living costs. However, vocational qualifications are usually much cheaper. Furthermore, with many apprenticeships, you are paid to work. For those with a low budget, finding an apprenticeship is one of the best options. Moreover, those who have gone with the vocational route can brag about how they do not have student debt to pay off.
Many Vocational Qualifications Can Lead to High Salaries
For those in trades such as hairdressing, plumbing, engineering, building and other essential trades, can earn a lot of money. As these traders are always going to be needed, people are willing to pay a high price for them.
In-Demand Jobs Means Job Security
As many trades that are trained through vocational qualifications are in demand, this means that there is a lot of job security. If you want a job that you can count on and are at low risk of becoming unemployed, vocational courses can be the best choice.
They Can Help You With a Career Change or Job Role Development
Vocational qualifications are not just for those who are coming out of school or are at school. They are also highly useful for those already in a full-time career who would like a career change. Equally, they can be great for those who would like to gain more skills to move up in a job position. Their flexible and practical nature means that there is not always a requirement to spend all of your free time learning. Moreover, there are many online vocational courses such as our courses here at the College of Contract Management. This means that you are able to continue your learning, from home.
Reputability and Impact on Career Development
Some people may say that academic qualifications are more reputable because they assess a higher level of skills in particular subject areas. However, vocational qualifications can be equally as reputable and if not, preferred by employers. This is because employers will have to give you less training if you have already done a wealth of practical work in the area.
Take these two examples…
- You studied a 3-year degree programme in engineering whereby you purely studied theory and did some small projects outside of the work environment. However, you do not know what it is like to actually work on a full-scale project and the day to day tasks. You find a job role, but the role requires 2 years of industry experience and is only a graduate role. This means you are unlikely to obtain the position.
- You studied by way of a vocational programme which allowed you to enter the work environment straight away. You may not have learnt about in-depth engineering theory, but you learnt everything you need for a particular job role. Then, you apply for a job, they notice that you do not have a degree which they would prefer, but you have 3 years experience in the industry which persuades them to employ you.
It’s clear from these examples that a vocational qualification can be a great way to get employed quickly.
This article has discussed vocational qualification in depth. It discussed the different types including NVQs, BTECs and Apprenticeships. Furthermore, it discussed the many benefits. Finally, it discussed reputability and employability.
So, in answering the question, are they worth it? Our answer would be yes. It is clear that there are so many benefits which make this type of qualification suitable for lots of people. For those who dislike exams, this could be a perfect choice. We also believe that if you have your mindset on a job role, these qualifications are the simplest ways to get there. On the other hand, for those who are unsure about a job role, this may not be the best choice for you. These qualifications lead you in one direction. If you are unsure, it may be better to study a broad subject area.
Therefore, it all depends on your personal preferences.