Practical courses needed

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A WIGAN education chief has joined a national call to highlight the increasing importance of vocational qualifications

A WIGAN education chief has joined a national call to highlight the increasing importance of vocational qualifications.

With the number of people working in skilled industry jobs set to decline over the next few years, Wigan and Leigh College principal Cath Hurst OBE says vocational qualifications are more important now than ever.

Her call comes as think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says Britain’s economy will struggle to compete globally if more young people do not complete high-quality vocational courses.

Ms Hurst said: “Vocational qualifications and apprenticeships are a valuable route for young people and adults. They provide the practical skills and knowledge needed to ensure the future skills of our local and regional economy are met.”

Wigan and Leigh College is home to hundreds of students enrolled upon courses such as health and social care (which is predicted to soon become in high demand), engineering and beauty to name but a few.

The demand for highly-skilled employees with technical knowledge is set to increase quickly, meaning there will be a wide range of job opportunities and employers will need their workforce to have more than just a standard academic background.

The IPPR’s research suggests there will be an extra 3.6m medium-skilled jobs in areas such as health care and public services by 2022, while 39 per cent of job vacancies in skilled trades were unfilled due to a shortage of suitable candidates.

The report says vocational qualifications can help fill in-demand jobs including social workers, carers, dental nurses and probation officers.

Ms Hurst added: “High-quality vocational qualifications prepare our students for employment as does mathematics and English skills.

“They are also a great choice for those who want to progress onto higher education or university, and we are increasingly seeing students who take this route.

“We will continue to raise awareness of the value of vocational qualifications as a great choice to a successful career.”

The value of on the job training is also backed up by the latest results of a long-term study by the Government, which shows that 20 per cent of advanced apprentices go on to higher education within a few years of finishing their apprenticeships.