Economic recovery depends on investment in practical skills


New research reveals that 87% of large businesses believe that future economic growth depends on Britain investing in practical skills. If there is insufficient investment to support these skills, 82% believe that this would put economic growth at risk. A further 81% say young people would benefit from being taught academic and vocational courses alongside one another.

The research, undertaken by YouGov, shows that senior managers of large businesses believe that vocational education plays a crucial role in delivering the Government’s hopes for a private sector-led recovery:

  • Only 16% of businesses believe that Britain’s education system currently equips young people with the right mix of academic knowledge and practical skills needed for the world of work.
  • 57% believe that investment in practical skills has fuelled growth in the rapidly industrialising BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China).
  • 53% reject the notion that academic skills are more important to growth than vocational skills.

These statistics challenge some of the recommendations made by the Wolf Report, which would potentially limit practical learning to 20% of the school week and placing a 25% ceiling on the contribution of practical qualifications to school league tables. 

In addition, the research highlighted that:

  • 72% of businesses believe it is wrong that the current core curriculum excludes practical subjects such as IT
  • 58% of larger businesses believe the current core curriculum must recognise the needs of individual students instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Only 3% of large businesses believe that educating young people solely in traditional academic subjects is most important to the UK’s economic development

Rod Bristow from Pearson UK, who published the findings, said “The message from businesses is crystal clear that our economic recovery depends on practical skills. It is essential that young people have the opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge they need to progress on to great jobs, both to secure the growth of the economy and their own future prospects.

“As the Government focusses on private sector growth and considers the Wolf Report, the message from businesses is simple: don’t undervalue vocational education, don’t downgrade it, don’t sideline it.

“Business leaders want Government to listen to the needs of industry and the UK’s economy first when assessing the role of practical learning in our schools.”

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