Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Reflections on the Employer Support for Higher Level Skills report

John Denham, Professorial Research Fellow of the IPA and former  Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, reflects on report findings


For the past 20 years and longer, Ministers of all parties have wanted to see more employers support employees and apprentices to gain higher levels skills and higher education. With strong bi-partisan support in a relatively non-ideological area of policy it seems odd that employer supported higher skills have not become a more important part of the skills and education system.

Friday, 15 July 2016

If A-Levels aren’t for you, choices at age 16 could now get a whole lot simpler

CVER Director, Sandra McNally, on some of the recommendations of the recent Sainsbury report


The incoming British prime minister Theresa May has outlined a vision of a country that “works not for the privileged few but that works for every one of us … because we’re going to give people control over their lives”. A good place for her to start would be to make sure that the government sticks to its promise to implement the 34 recommendations set out in a new report that aims to radically simplify the education choices available for people after age 16.

The Sainsbury report, published on July 8, sets out a blueprint for technical education for young people and adults. The report is wide-ranging and ambitious, with recommendations that cover many aspects of the way education is provided. The government’s Post-16 Skills Plan, published on the same day, says the Sainsbury recommendation will be accepted “unequivocally where that is possible within existing budgets”.
Plethora of choices

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Institute for Apprenticeships must promote innovation and productivity


Dr Hilary Steedman has been engaged in research on apprenticeships, vocational training and labour market transitions since the early 1980s. Here she writes on the priorities for the new Institute for Apprenticeships.


In the past five years over two million individuals of working age have started an apprenticeship. Their life chances depend upon the quality and transferability of the skills standards that provide the structure for learning in apprenticeship.

Thousands of workplaces and facilitators are involved in delivering the skills embodied in apprenticeship skills standards. Effective governance is needed to ensure that, wherever the apprenticeship is provided, recognised skills and relevant knowledge have been developed and reliably assessed. This is a challenging and complex task requiring understanding of the perspectives of all the main actors - apprentices, business and the public interest.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Why do we bother with skills?

Marguerita Lane, a Senior Economic Consultant at London Economics, looks at the impact of literacy, numeracy and computer skills on earnings and employment outcomes


We expect skills in numeracy, literacy and ICT to be rewarded in the workplace through higher earnings and better employment opportunities. The 2012 Survey of Adult Skills confirms that this is the case. But can improvements in skills compensate for having a lower level of formal education? A new study by London Economics for the OECD finds that the answer depends on the type of skill under consideration – literacy, numeracy or ICT.

Monday, 21 March 2016

CVER – one year on

Sandra McNally, CVER's Director, reflects on the first year of the Centre for Vocational Education Research, and looks ahead


The BIS-funded Centre for Vocational Education Research was launched a year ago. Since then, vocational education has seen some important policy changes: The introduction of the apprenticeship levy, the announcement of the 3 million apprenticeship target, cuts in the non-apprenticeship adult skills budget, and ongoing restructuring of the further education college sector. The OECD has highlighted the dire state of basic skills among adults in England in a recent report, and policy makers are eager to improve the quality of what is being taught to adults by setting tougher conditions on what is funded.

So, in the midst of all these developments, what has CVER been doing?

Friday, 29 January 2016

Why do we bother with qualifications?

Simon Field, Senior Analyst, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills, on the relationship between qualifications and skills 


After all, they are just pieces of paper with fancy script and impressive-looking designs, and employers are surely interested in what people can actually do – their skills – rather than pieces of paper? A new OECD study, entitled Building Skills for All, A Review of England casts a spotlight on this question.

Qualifications are useful because they make skills visible. It is confidently assumed that the holder of a school-leaving certificate can read and understand instructions, and make calculations, and that those with university degrees can do much more. This confidence allows employers and others to decide how to make the best use of the skills of the labour force.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The labour market effects of academic and vocational education over the life cycle: Evidence from a British cohort

Giorgio Brunello and Lorenzo Rocco from the University of Padova look at the benefits and costs of academic and vocational education over the long-term.


Education economists often point out that individuals with a vocational education face a trade-off between short term benefits and long term costs. In the short term, this type of education facilitates the transition from school to work by providing ready to use skills. In the long term, however, vocational skills may depreciate relatively fast and individuals who specialize in these skills may be less capable of adapting to technical change than individuals endowed with a more general (academically oriented) education.
 
The view that the labour market benefits of vocational education are short lived has been recently supported by Hanushek, Schwerdt, Wossmann and Zhang (2015), who compare the life cycle patterns of employment (and wages) for individuals with vocational and academic education using cross-sectional data from the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS). Since IALS does not allow to follow individuals over time and to distinguish between age and cohort effects, their estimates rely on the assumption that age - employment and age – wage profiles do not vary across cohorts, so that today’s old people in each education category are a good proxy for today’s young people when they will become old. What this literature does is compare someone’s wage with a vocational education at age 50 with the wage of someone holding a vocational qualification aged 30 in the same year, and assumes that today’s 30 year olds will fare in 20 years’ time like today’s 50 year olds. But it is possible that today’s 50 year olds do quite differently because the labour market they entered was very different or because the composition of the older labour force (e.g. in terms of qualifications) is quite different than among the younger cohorts. This makes it difficult to infer the true effects of vocational education by comparing older and younger workers.