The role of employers in vocational education and training : partners or passive recipients?
This thesis examines the role of employers in vocational education and training (VET) with particular reference to initiatives targetted at the 16-19 age group. Its premise is that the so-called 'employer-led' initiatives of the 1980s and 1990s have, in fact, been government-led and that employers have played a particularly passive role in their design and delivery. Furthermore, the thesis asserts that employers lack the understanding, knowledge and commitment required to play the proactive role which the rhetoric of VET demands of them. Historical sources are used to demonstrate that the struggle to persuade employers to play a leading role in VET has been taking place for decades and that even the classic employer-led model, apprenticeship, cannot be said to have been an unqualified success. The introduction of the Youth Training Scheme is examined in terms of its effects on employers' company-wide training practices, effects which have been largely overlooked by previous analyses. The thesis then attempts to reveal the realities behind the employer-VET interface through two closely observed case studies of, firstly, a Training and Enterprise Council (TEC), and, secondly, a Training Credits pilot programme. A qualitative methodology was used to bring into focus the perceptions, values and struggles of people working both inside and on the outside of initiatives which are hailed as vehicles for reversing the national failure to match the rest of the developed world in terms of a skilled labour force. In order to create a sense of the highly complex world of VET as experienced by young people, employers, TEC staff, teachers, lecturers and careers officers, the thesis draws on research data collected over four years. The thesis concludes by recommending that employers, researchers, VET practitioners and policymakers need to construct a new paradigm to encompass a meaningful role for employers in VET.