At the same time as the coalition government revealed that Jobseekers who fail to take up compulsory training will lose their benefits, the business community has warned against sidelining vocational education in favour of more academic subjects.
As part of the government’s new ‘claimant contract’, Employment Minister Chris Grayling indicated that people who were unable to secure work because they lacked the necessary skills would be provided with mandatory training. If they failed to attend or complete the course for no apparent good reason, they could lose all or some of their benefits, however.
The move comes on top of the announcement of a proposed ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule in November, which will see unemployed people who refuse to take up offers of work three times having their benefits withdrawn for three years.
“We want to give people every opportunity to move closer to employment, but those who refuse the offer of help, fail to attend or don’t finish their course could face sanctions. This is part of our new contract with jobseekers – we will give you the right help and support to get you into work and off benefits, but we expect you to play your part,” Grayling said.
The sanctions will affect people claiming Jobseekers Allowance and in the Work-Related Activity Group of the Employment Support Allowance. The idea is that Jobcentre Plus advisers will assess what kind of support each person requires and refer those whom they judge to need basic skills or vocational training on to a skills training provider such as a Further Education College or Next Step adviser.
The news came to light as a poll among 408 senior decision-makers in large companies undertaken by YouGov revealed that a huge 87% believed investment in vocational skills was crucial to promoting future economic growth.
Some 53% rejected the notion that academic skills were more important than vocational ones, while a mere 16% believed the country’s current education system currently equipped young people with the right mix of academic knowledge and practical skills required for the world of work.
The online poll, undertaken on behalf of training provider Pearson, came in the wake of recommendations in the Wolf Report that vocational learning should be limited to 20% of the school week and that a ceiling of 25% should be placed on the contribution of practical qualifications to school league tables.
But 72% of respondents believed it wrong that the current core curriculum excluded practical subjects such as IT, while 81% believed that young people would benefit from being taught academic and vocational courses in parallel.
Rod Bristow, Pearson UK’s president, said: “As the government focuses 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.”