Letter: A pathway that could lead to skilled work

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The Independent Online
Sir: There has been some stimulating debate recently, in your columns and elsewhere, on the subject of vocational education and training in the context of the new national qualifications. The employer's viewpoint, however, has been largely disregarded.

Comment has tended to be focused exclusively on young people in school, and there has been little description of the impact of National Vocational Qualifications in improving the skills of adults already in work. NVQs are providing working people with tremendous opportunities to increase their skills and their contribution to better business performance, and to gain nationally recognised qualifications in the process.

Vocational training in past years failed to provide the practical framework needed to raise our national competitiveness. The experience of Sainsbury's, Boots the Chemist and other employers using NVQs is that they provide the framework for motivation and skill-building that meets present- day needs.

For young people and adults at work, NVQs and GNVQs represent a new 'pathway' for increasing skills and gaining relevant qualifications. Basic knowledge and practical skills are both vital, and young people and adults should have a range of qualifications from which to choose - NVQs, GNVQs and A-levels - and should be able to pick the combination that best suits them and their aspirations. That way we shall be able to produce a workforce with qualifications which are both knowledge-based and practical.

There are already demonstrations of how this can be done. Notable among current projects is London First's Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (Cats). Indeed, the framework now being put in place, enhanced by 'Cats' arrangements, will ensure that the UK achieves the skills improvements so badly needed, rather than the gloomy forecast made by so many commentators.

Yours faithfully,


Personnel Director

J Sainsbury plc


Director of Personnel

Boots the Chemist

London, SE1

21 December