Figures released by City and Guilds, the UK’s leading vocational awarding organisation, show that the number of 14-19 year olds starting higher level vocational qualifications has more than doubled in the past year.

In July it was shown that university applications were down 7.7% on the previous year as rising tuition fees price many young people out of higher education.

City & Guilds’ statistics reveal that between 2010/11 and 2011/12 there was a 158% year on year upsurge in people starting vocational courses at Level 4 and above, which range from Retail Management to Engineering and Construction. These figures show that savvy learners are responding to systemic changes in education, training and employment and exploring alternative high-quality, practical and cost-effective routes into work.

The statistics are supported by new research from City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (CSD), which examines the beliefs that young people hold about their future career prospects. Of those surveyed, an overwhelming majority (91%) believe it’s likely that university will be too expensive for many families in the future, indicating that cost is a very important factor in deciding which education path to take.

Russell Pocock, Head of Learner Engagement at City & Guilds, comments:

“The recent news that the majority of young people will have to pay £9,000 annual tuition fees to go to university is making young people rethink their routes into employment, which we believe is a positive thing for young people, businesses and the wider economy.

“The employers that we work with tell us time and time again that the most valuable asset they’re looking for in new starters is experience. This is something that can only be gained by learning on the job – and this is where vocational training adds unrivalled value to learners and businesses alike.

“Building a workforce of young people with relevant skills for employment will be crucial if we are to boost youth employment.”

The research by City & Guilds is backed up by figures from, the online service providing young people with advice and access to businesses and employment. The site has seen the number of available jobs and courses posted by businesses on its site rise from 1,200 to 6,000 (400%) – a sign of the increased value employers are placing on work-based learning. Meanwhile visitor numbers have doubled over the last 12 months and are set to reach 150,000 in August.

Spencer Mehlman, Managing Director at, comments:

“It’s encouraging that more young people are realising the value of vocational training and considering the various paths to career success. We’ve seen the number of people interested in Advanced Apprenticeships more than double (241% uplift) in the last year, so awareness of high-quality vocational training is certainly on the up. We want to dispel the myth that having a degree automatically makes you more employable, because it’s simply not true today. What most employers are looking for is relevant experience, a good attitude, and skills that can add value to their business from day one.”