As part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, a review of vocational qualifications was launched in July 2022, chaired by former Principal of Pembrokeshire College, Sharron Lusher.
The review is considering the steps necessary to expand the range of made-in-Wales vocational qualifications to fit the needs of learners and the economy in Wales.
Driving our thinking on shaping the future of vocational education and training in Wales are four key areas:
- Create a national vocational education and training (VET) strategy to link vocational education and training to Wales’ economic and industrial priorities. It would provide a guiding framework for Qualifications Wales, awarding bodies and providers, and would ensure that there is a clear line of democratic accountability within the system. This strategy should articulate Wales’ philosophy for vocational education and training, including the importance of appropriate assessment, moving towards a focus on progression into work, ensure a strong voice for learners and employers, and allow colleges to meet local and regional priorities. Across all levels, pathways need to support learners and their progression, and the routes should not necessarily be driven by qualifications. Our focus should be on progression and outcomes for learners, and not on an outcome of qualifications completed.
- Develop clear vocational progression pathways. At the heart of the system must be a commitment to building the infrastructure, and to provide access to clear, understandable, and flexible vocational pathways. This should be underpinned by a right to high-quality independent advice and guidance, particularly at key transition points in education and life. There must be an appropriate range of entry and exit points that can be accessed by learners at different stages of their lives, including for upskilling and retraining, and colleges must be appropriately funded to innovate and to meet demand.
- Meet the needs of learners, employers, and sectors. Vocational qualifications should be vocational in nature, as well as in name. Assessment, workload, and work placements must be appropriate - for these vocational, rather than academic, qualifications. In order that vocational qualifications are credible, rigorous, and meet learner, employer and sector needs they should be designed and developed by people with the right level of expertise, and with an understanding of the relevant sectors and the nature of vocational education. They should be flexible for learners and offer an appropriate range of entry and exit points that can be accessed by learners at different stages of their lives and careers. Crucially, employers must be at the heart of the system and colleges given the resources they need to deliver the flexible and tailored provision to meet the needs of the local labour market.
- Ensure a stronger role for colleges. Vocational qualifications are complex and work across all four of the UK nations. However, it is vital that we have a system that is both flexible and agile enough to meet local need, be resilient in changes to qualifications in England, and has credibility outside of our borders. Vocational qualifications must meet the needs of employers and learners here in Wales but should also be recognised and understood outside of Wales – both in the UK and internationally, as well as in education and the wider economy. Qualifications must therefore be recognised and respected by professional bodies and by industry and be portable outside of Wales. But we must also recognise the specific needs of Wales, including the importance of bilingual pathways.
Vocational qualifications form part of a much wider ecosystem, and the impact of any developments in this space should be considered carefully. Detailed consideration should be given to the role, funding model, and current suitability of awarding bodies. On completion of the vocational qualifications review, the panel will make recommendations, and it is critical that these recommendations are understood in the context of the new Commission for Tertiary Education and Research, including during the transition phase.
We look forward to the outcome of the review, and we stand ready to work with our partners to deliver our vision of World-class further education for Wales.
Rachel Cable, Director of Policy and Public Affairs