We're helping to drive forward research in vocational educationApprentices

We're one of four partners behind the Centre for Vocational Education Research (CVER), a world-class research hub in London, created to improve vocational education in the UK.

Dr Stephen McIntosh, a reader in our Department of Economics, is working with three other experts in vocational education to examine how it can help strengthen the UK's economy and improve lives.

Today (24 March 2015), Nick Boles MP, Minister of State for Skills and Equalities, launched the Centre, which is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

He said: “A skilled workforce, able to meet the needs of employers and industries, is vital to our continued economic growth.

“I’m delighted to be opening the Centre for Vocational Education Research, bringing together experts from universities and colleges to build on our work driving up standards in skills and training.

"Creating new ideas for skills provision, rooted in analysis and rigorous research, will help the UK create a world-class workforce of the future.”

In 2014 there were nearly 1.4 million adult learners and over half a million apprentices in England, with over 2.1 million apprenticeship starts in the last five years.

Sandra McNally, founding director of the new Centre, said: “While there are many excellent routes available to young people in vocational education, many do not get the high quality education they need to fulfil their own potential and to contribute to economic growth.

“The new Centre aspires to become a world-class research hub to generate a step-change in our understanding of the nature, significance and potential contribution of vocational education to individuals and the wider economy.”

As well as McNally from the London School of Economics Centre for Economic Performance, the new Centre brings together partners, all with significant and acknowledged expertise in vocational education: our University's Dr Steven McIntosh; the Institute for Employment Studies (Dr Stefan Speckesser); and London Economics (Dr Gavan Conlon).

At the launch, Professor Alison Wolf of King's College London, author of the Review of Vocational Education (the Wolf Report) in 2011, was on the panel for a question and answer session.

Professor Wolf, Chair of the CVER's advisory board, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the Government is establishing this Centre. It is an opportunity to transform our understanding of vocational education, and its role in society, and to create better education policy at all levels as a result.”

Earlier this month, our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Keith Burnett, co-authored a report, The Future of Higher Vocational Education, which sets out a vision for elite vocational education in the UK in which high quality apprenticeships achieve the same high quality status as university degrees.

He said: "I am delighted that our University is undertaking serious study into the future of vocational education in the UK – an area which has been neglected for too long at significant cost to our economy, productivity and young people."

About the Centre

The Centre for Vocational Education Research (CVER) is a newly established research institution, funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The Centre brings together four partners, all with significant and acknowledged expertise in vocational education: the Centre for Economic Performance at the LSE (Professor Sandra McNally will be CVER’s Director); the University of Sheffield (Dr Steven McIntosh); the Institute for Employment Studies (Dr Stefan Speckesser); and London Economics (Dr Gavan Conlon).

Why a centre for vocational education research?

It has long been recognised that significant improvements in the vocational education and skills of the UK labour force are essential for stronger and more sustainable economic growth. It is also well established that there are long-running structural problems and inadequacies in our existing vocational education system (as highlighted in the Wolf Report of 2011). Our aim is to create a research institution that will advance our understanding of the requirements for vocational education in the UK today, identify the challenges in provision of vocational education, and develop and strengthen the knowledge-base to enable a more agile, relevant and needs-based vocational education sector to become a driving force for economic growth and social mobility, as it is in other countries.