By Chris Jones, Director General and CEO, City & Guilds

As the Government tackles the country’s public finances and budget deficit, seven in ten business employers (69 per cent) argue that work-related education and training will play a vital role in the UK’s economic recovery, according to ‘The Skills Economy — the new framework for prosperity’, a new report from the UK’s leading vocational education organisation, City & Guilds.

The survey of over 1,200 employers across 26 industry areas in England1 reveals that businesses see skills as a top priority for supporting the country’s future prosperity. Over eight in ten (84 per cent) business employers view vocationally trained staff as vital to the success of their business, and almost three quarters (72 per cent) claim that vocational education delivers the practical skills essential for today’s dynamic economy.

Business managers argue practical work experience is more valuable than academic study, with specialist industry skills offering immediate advantages in the workplace over a university education. Six in ten (61 per cent) business employers believe that the biggest benefit of people with vocational qualifications over graduates is that they already have the skills and experience to work for their business from day one.

There is general recognition that skilled workers give businesses a competitive edge, both on an industry and international level. Over six in ten (62 per cent) business employers believe that their vocationally qualified employees make them more competitive in their industry, whilst eight in ten (81 per cent) employers agree that work-related skills are vital to ensure the UK can compete in the changing global economy.

The future is bright for skilled workers as more than six in ten (64 per cent) business employers rely on their vocationally trained staff to give them the skills they need for the future.

The Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), the new framework for creating and accrediting qualifications, aims to deliver the vocational skills employers need today and tomorrow.

City & Guilds explains what QCF means for employers and their staff. It offers a breadth of high quality qualifications to suit today’s business needs and train learners to the highest industry standards.

Chris Jones, Director General and CEO, City & Guilds said: ‘Our research reveals the extent to which UK plc recognises the vital importance of skills through vocational learning for the country’s future economic prosperity and global competitiveness.

‘As the introduction of QCF puts the spotlight on vocational qualifications, City & Guilds is committed to creating a wide range of high quality qualifications that will equip individuals with the right skills and training needed to support the country’s recovery as well as bring clarity to the changeover for employers, learners and training centres alike.

‘Ultimately vocational qualifications will become even more relevant to employers’ skills needs and the changing face of UK industry, as well as more flexible and transparent for learners’ career progression.’

Further research findings include:

· Vocational workers have staying power: Over half (52 per cent) of business employers say that employees with vocational qualifications are more likely to remain in their company and progress through the business than those without.

· Vocational training for the 21st Century: Seven in ten (70 per cent) business bosses believe vocational qualifications cover a wide range of emerging industries and not just ‘traditional trades’ such as plumbing and carpentry.

For example, developments with City & Guilds’ new customer service qualifications through QCF include qualifications suitable for short courses, which provide the opportunity to enhance the skills of people supporting the Olympics and other major UK events. Developments are also likely around Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and higher level qualifications. For Foundation Learning, there are two Customer Service and one Contact Centre qualifications suitable for learners.

· Supporting standards for skills: Almost six in ten (58 per cent) business employers believe their business would benefit from the development of an industry standard to create a benchmark for skills.

· Worth their weight in gold: Three quarters (74 per cent) of business bosses believe the benefits to their business of training apprentices far outweigh the costs. Almost eight in ten (78 per cent) rely on their apprenticeship programme to give them the skilled workers they need for the future. Almost six in ten (57 per cent) business managers say that a high proportion of their apprentices go on to management positions within the company.

As the UK’s largest vocational education organisation, City & Guilds aims to inspire young people to realise their career aspirations and potential. With over 130 years heritage and expertise, City & Guilds is leading a new kind of talent revolution to ensure the workforce of tomorrow has the right training to succeed and lead in tomorrow’s fast paced economy.

For more information about QCF and ‘The Skills Economy’ report (which will be available online from Monday, 19 July), visit www.cityandguilds.com/QCF .