Does Vocational Learning Offer Long Term Results?

learner journey

A new study commissioned by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) investigates the benefits of vocational learning to discover which courses provided increased employability and earnings both immediately after course completion and in the long term.

The results highlighted the strong positive impact of vocational learning - the benefits long outlast the completion of the course with learners maximising on the full returns of training over the proceeding 7 years. Skills for life appear to be exactly that - for life.

Learner + Maths Skills = Employment

Of all Skills for Life qualifications, numeracy skills appear to offer the greatest impact on employability and earnings. A Level 2 numeracy qualification - such as GCSE Maths, Certificate in Numeracy and Key Skills in Numeracy - could made learners 3.7% more likely to be employed within the first year. GCSE maths course completers could even see 13% more employment outcomes over the next 7 years, with a 15% earnings premium within the first 2 years increasing to around 33% over time.

English skills also had a strong impact but the benefits where not as immediate; for training providers claiming on job outcomes numeracy skills could show more returns, even if long term results are beneficial to the learner colleges cannot claim funding for helping someone 4 years after they left.

Popularity does not necessarily mean profitably

Although Health and Public Services where the most popular vocation qualification they did not show as strong earning returns as other subject areas. Learners completing these courses where very likely to become employed but could not have scope for increased earnings.

The highest returns where instead seen in Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies, with both increased job outcomes and earnings increasing by 8.3% to 15% from the first to fourth year post completion. It was interesting to note that Retail and Commercial Enterprise Business, Administration and Law appeared to show less erosion of annual earnings premium with returns showing consistent steady increases over time.

Tor Macleod 12:04

Infographic: Assessment of Unit Delivery Trials

During 2011 - 2012 about 80 training providers took part in trials of unit based learning, the effectiveness of this has recently been evaluated in a new Department for Business for Innovation & Skills (BIS) report.

Unit based learning consists of 'bite sized' credit based courses. These credits can be transferred and accumulated towards a 'full' qualification within the Qualifications & Credit Framework (QCF); allowing a more flexible way to learn.

( What is the QCF? For more information about the QCF see our guide Explaining the QCF for 2012/13)

Check out our brand new infographic summarising the key points and findings.

Unit Delivery Infographic thumb

Read the full report Unit delivery trials: assessment of learner benefits 

Like this Infographic? - copy the code below to share it on your website.

<a style="border: none;" title="ASSESSMENT OF UNIT DELIVERY TRIALS" href=""><img alt="ASSESSMENT OF UNIT DELIVERY TRIALS" src="" /></a><br/>Infographic by <a title="Macleod Associates" href="">Macleod Associates</a>

Skills & Employability Review Issue 1


Launching the Skills & Employability Review

Our new monthly newsletter will bring you out pick of the past months further education and skills news.

Here is the first Issue of the Macleod Associates Skills & Employability Review. Every month we will bring you highlights of the top news, articles and reports from the FE and skills sector.


  • The Missing Link Between Education & Employment
  • Is Careers Advice Getting Worse?
  • Skills for Life Survey Infographic & much more

Read the online version here

Join our mailing list to receive the monthly Skills & Employability Review by email. 

The Missing Link Between Education & Employment

As we prepare for the coming academic year the Skills Funding Agency and the Department for Business Innovation & Skills have commented on where the funding landscape is heading. There has been, and will continue to be a lot of talk about the importance of education which leads to employment outcomes...
Tor Macleod 16:27

Will Advanced Learning Loans Affect Learner Motivation?

learner motivation

With changes to Government funded education due to kick in this academic year, the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) have released a research into the implication and attitudes towards changes within adult courses.

Government proposals plan to divert funding away from adult (24+) leaners on Level 3 or above courses and focus instead on younger, lower-qualified learners. This has already raised concerns that this move would lead to up to 100,000 fewer learners.

To help bridge this funding gap the Government will introduce learner loans to cover the up-front costs of further education (FE), these 24+ Advanced Learning Loans will be available in the coming academic year - with the first full year in 2014/15.

Attitudes to New Learning Loans

A report to assess the resulting attitudes and motivational impact on learners has been released. This report is broken down into 4 key groups examining:

  • 40+ learners, in particular the unemployed
  • Learners with mental, physical or learning disabilities
  • Apprentices
  • Muslim learners

These initial findings show common themes amongst attitudes to motivation, ability to pay for courses, financial awareness and attitudes to the principal of Government funded education. 

The 24+ Advanced Learning Loan was found to be less likely to appeal to the 40+ age group and Muslim learners; demonstrating a larger barrier to take-up of FE than in other groups.

Despite many respondents claiming their motivation would not be strong enough to continue into further education with these higher costs, the report claims that this should not be taken at 'face value'. Previous research into the learner journey has found that learners tend to choose and course and provider before considering its costs. This 'emotional commitment' means they are less likely to object to costs, providing an opportunity for providers to convert this initial enthusiasm into an enduring commitment.

The full report can be read on the BIS website with additional resources and support available here

Tor Macleod 11:42


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