The benefits of vocational learning should be shared with students as part of their school experiences, employing previous students to engage and share experiences with current pupils, giving this route the credit to be a viable option to which students, schools and parents can advocate. Help is needed to allow students to understand the opportunities linked to vocational courses, and the almost guaranteed employment at qualification in their area of speciality (something of a challenge for graduates).
Projects like Selby College reinforce this position, giving students a purpose made facility with specialist teaching facilities in an adult environment; they mirror the campus feel and freedoms of a university education, without the associated cost or accrued debit.
The re-development of Selby College was an exercise in both building design and masterplanning. The integration of new and existing buildings in to a single, cohesive campus, centred on a landscape heart, gave the college a stronger identity, further enhancing its status in the local community. The development comprises a multitude of specialist teaching environments, including hair and beauty therapy salons; treatment rooms; a health spa, sports hall and fitness suite; science laboratories; mathematics laboratories; training kitchens and a public restaurant; construction workshops; business services; 14 to 16 provision; and student services.
Just as important, however, is the space between these facilities. Space allows creativity between teaching sessions, generating life within the building and turning the environment from a pure teaching facility into a flexible haven for tech-savvy students who prosper in a digital world without physical boundaries.
Vocational colleagues also give students the opportunity to put theory into practice, to make mistakes and to learn. They engage with the general public and with real businesses in facilities which help bridge the gap between education and a life in employment. Furthermore, vocational learning allows industry to better understand tomorrow’s recruits and to feed from their enthusiasm and skills.
The ambition should be to offer opportunity and derive the best possible outcome for all, not only those who choose to go into Higher Education. Certainly the role of vocational training in addressing the skills shortage across all trades and industries cannot be under estimated.
We can all offer more not only through the schemes we design, but in supporting this through our industry and giving those that don’t take a traditional education route a platform to develop their careers.
Food for thought and an opportunity not to be missed.