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Funding pledged for vocational learning

31/07/2014 Joanna
Seven projects are to benefit from grants totalling half a million pounds, in an attempt to promote vocational education.

The Edge Foundation has allocated the money through its innovation and development fund, which was established to support technical, practical and vocational learning.

Grants have been awarded across a range of key sectors; they begin at £50,000 and have a maximum limit of £100,000. Applications for the second round of funding have now closed and successful bids will be announced by the end of the year.

According to the Edge Foundation, its investment will help to ensure the UK economy has access to the skills it requires.

Chief executive officer Jan Hodges said: "The Edge Foundation is delighted to support this range of innovative and exciting projects around the country.

"Edge has worked hard over the past decade championing the importance and benefits of high quality technical, practical and vocational education and training, seeking a closer alignment between education and the skill needs of the UK economy. 

"These projects all have the potential to become beacons of excellence in this regard and exemplars of what can be achieved."


Among the beneficiaries is Activate Learning in Oxfordshire, which has received £90,000 to help create a career pathway college to provide technical education in construction and heritage craft.

At Barking and Dagenham College in London, £96,000 is to be invested in The Siemens' Mechatronics Academy.

Some £50,000 is to be spent at Career Academies UK in Liverpool, which will fund five new career academies focusing on the logistics sector.

Hackney Community College in London will receive £78,540 in support of an apprenticeship sector for companies in the Here East business hub (Olympic Park).

The Edge Foundation says vocational work should be accorded the same status as academic learning and all youngsters should experience both types of education.

Projects selected to receive funding must support the organisation’s six steps for change and address at least two of its three aims: to facilitate the creation of new institutions, support the development of profound employer engagement and address areas of skills shortages in the UK economy.

Ian Ashman, principal of Hackney Community College, told The Telegraph apprenticeships in the expanding digital economy are "crucial" to the future of young people in his institution’s local area.

"As we have already shown, young and diverse apprentices bring many benefits to the companies that take them. It's a win-win deal with clear benefits for young people and for new tech entrepreneurs," he added.

Changing attitudes

David Harbourne, director of policy and research at the Edge Foundation, has pointed out that many parents do not value vocational education as much as traditional academic subjects.

Only 27 per cent of parents thought such education was worthwhile, while 22 per cent of students were told they were "too clever" for vocational work. He said these ways of thinking need to be challenged and supporting vocational education projects is one way to do this.

These attitudes contrast starkly with those of employers, who tend to attach more value to vocational skills. Recent research commissioned by Edge and City & Guilds revealed 72 per cent of employers believe vocational qualifications are "essential" for improving young people’s skills.

Vocational drive

The government has been behind a drive to raise standards of vocational education and ensure they are accorded the importance they deserve.

Last month, it provided details on new technical awards, which aim to equip pupils with the skills they need in everyday life and in their future careers.

The qualifications will form part of a new vocational education route available to young people between the ages of 14 and 19.

In addition to the technical awards for pupils between the ages of 14 and 16, tech levels will be made available to 16 to 19-year-olds to study alongside or instead of A-levels.

After the students have completed these courses, they will be ready for an advanced apprenticeship, university or skilled employment.

Skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock described technical awards as "a crucial first step towards securing a high-quality vocational education".

Posted by Tim ColmanADNFCR-2164-ID-801738967-ADNFCR
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