Britain 'struggling' to keep up with its European neighbours in terms of vocational training for young people

Britain is lagging behind the rest of Europe when it comes to young people enrolling on vocational courses, with a recent study showing less than one in three set off on that path.

The Edge Foundation discovered 32% of teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 in the UK were studying a vocational subject. The figure was significantly lower than the average of 50% recorded for the rest of the European Union.

Four in five young people in Liechtenstein were undertaking some vocational study, with over seven in 10 doing the same in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Austria.

The education charity surveyed over 250 senior teachers in England and appeared to find an association between high levels of youth unemployment and low participation in vocational courses.

Edge Foundation chief executive Jan Hodges said the feedback the charity receives from employers on a regular basis is that they need young people who understand the working world and have the required skills for the job. Youngsters could boost their skills by undertaking vocational training.

"Looking across Europe, we see it is countries who are investing more, not less, in vocational education that are faring better in tackling the issue of youth unemployment," she said.

"If we are to replicate the success of Germany, the Netherlands or Switzerland, we need to provide high-quality vocational education in schools to provide young people not only with skills that employers want but also those that will allow them to set up their own businesses."

A Department for Education spokesman said the Government is in the process of revamping vocational education so more teenagers can flourish in today's jobs market.

"We are reforming apprenticeships, introducing traineeships and recognising only high-quality vocational courses that lead to a skilled trade or profession," he said.

"Studio schools and university technical colleges already allow employers to help shape the curriculum, while our technical baccalaureate places high-quality vocational education on a par with A-levels to finally give vocational education the status it deserves."

Copyright Press Association 2013