Vocational Qualifications ‘Demonstrate Desperately Wanted Skills.’

With the jobs market as tough as it is, many people are increasingly exploring their options when it comes to developing themselves professionally in order to stay one step ahead of the competition.

Recent research by independent education foundation Edge revealed that nearly a quarter of graduates have chosen to add to their university degree with a vocational qualification, while an additional 17 per cent are considering studying on a practical course.

Although three-quarters of graduates said they thought that a degree was necessary for their chosen career, 30 per cent also felt that their course did not prepare them adequately for the world of work.

‘Desperately-Wanted’ Skills.

“Graduates are topping up their degrees with vocational qualifications because the current system is failing to provide the skills and training that graduates need and employers so desperately want,” said Andy Powell, chief executive of Edge.

“In the current climate, it’s more important than ever that vocational qualifications get the recognition they deserve,” he added.

Acknowledging the significance of practical courses, Pitman Training has recently launched a new online learning programme, Management Professional, which gives people the opportunity to study one of three nationally-recognised Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) qualifications.

The Pitman Training centres in London’s High Holborn and Notting Hill will be among those offering the courses.

Broadening Appeal.

“We wanted to broaden our appeal and also to give our students a new goal to reach. At the same time, the training needed to match our ethos of delivering very practical education, for use in the workplace,” said Shilpa Wymer, principal of the colleges.

Vocational qualifications have been increasing in popularity across the board, with Edge reporting that 3.6 million certificates were awarded last year, a statistic which was welcomed by business and industry leaders.

BTEC was originally formed in 1974 under the guise of the Business Education Council with the aim of improving the relevance of sub-degree qualifications.

The merger with the Technology Education Council created BTEC and then in 1984, this organisation combined with London Examinations in 1996 to form Edexcel, which is now the awarding body behind the accredited qualifications.

BTEC courses have usually been designed in collaboration with employers, so when it comes to applying for a job, having that certificate on your CV indicates to recruiters that you have the skills they are looking for.

The qualifications are awarded at eight different levels, with the depth of study increasing accordingly. Level-one qualifications are the equivalent of GCSEs achieved at grades D-G, while level-eight certificates equate to doctorate credentials. They are graded at pass, merit and distinction.

Depth Of Knowledge.

Pitman Training is such a trusted name in education that I think our course development team took a brave step in allying our programmes to another examining body,” said Mrs Wymer.

“But I think it is a positive step because we’re best known for office skills training and going for BTEC shows that we are doing something different and aiming at a new learning community.”

Courses of study involve completing a range of assignments, case studies and practical activities, as well as a portfolio demonstrating the work you have completed.

Pitman Training’s new programmes are aimed at people looking to move into management.

Students can study for a BTEC Management Professional Diploma, Level 5 Certificate in Management Studies or a Level 5 BTEC Award in Management Skills.

According to the government’s National Qualifications Framework, level 5 credentials demonstrate “ability to increase the depth of knowledge and understanding of an area of work or study, so you can respond to complex problems and situations”.

‘Heavyweight’ Programme.

They are equivalent to a foundation degree, meaning that they can be used as a route into higher education as well as to improve career prospects and employability.

Pitman Training spent two years developing the BTEC-accredited courses and piloted them internally.

The Management Professional Diploma is at the top end of the range of options and is estimated to require 300 hours of study.

“This really is a heavyweight management training programme, delivering people management, financial management, health and safety, marketing and personal development units,” explained Mrs Wymer.

Alternatively, students can work towards shorter courses if they are unable to commit to such an in-depth programme, gaining a ‘unit’ qualification for a particular section of the course.

Gaining this vocational certificate also leads to fast-tracked recognition by the Institute of Leadership and Management and the Chartered Management Institute.

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