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Impact case study - Improving national policies for vocational training

Vocational training aims to equip people with the right knowledge and skills for the labour market. But research has shown that the results can be disappointing. 

Researchers at King’s College London have examined market failure in the training field and the conditions where Government involvement is of benefit. 

As a result of in depth research by the vocational training group at King’s College London, vocational education and training in England has been restructured.

Disappointing results for interventions and programmes

Human capital theory and theories of market failure have underpinned government policy aiming to improve skill development and publically funded training programmes.

In the UK, these interventions and programmes have been a vital component of productivity policy for many years. But research has consistently shown the results are disappointing. 


The King’s vocational training group

A research team at King’s has investigated the best ways to improve national policies for vocational training.

The group has a diverse set of expertise and knowledge. Members include:

  • Professor Alison Wolf
  • Professor Howard Gospel
  • Dr Austin De Coulon 
  • Dr Paul Lewis 

Revealing the underlying issues through the vocational training group’s research, King’s has shown:

  • Researchers and policy makers are wrong to assume all formal accreditation of skills has positive outcomes
  • Adult training fails to improve skills
  • Applying organisation theory might boost training quality, increase human capital and add value to service provision
  • There was a need to modify existing theories of market failure 

The Wolf Review in early 2011 made 27 extensive recommendations for changes in education for 14-19 year olds. Later that year, the Government accepted all the recommendations. Wolf played a vital role in making the changes happen. 

There are very close links between the research and the Review’s outcomes including:

  • Introduction of requirements for coherent 16-19 study programmes
  • Apprenticeships reforms to reduce complexity of administrative structures
  • Changes to the accountability measures used in schools

A comprehensive reform of vocational education

The team’s research has been crucial to achieving a comprehensive reform of UK vocational education, skills funding and organisation.  

It’s had a significant influence on policymakers and led to the group members being directly involved in policymaking. 

Overall, King’s research continues to have an impact on the government departments directly responsible for education and training. 

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