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Home > News > July 2004 > 02-Jul-2004

Toolkit aims to make vocational learning more relevant to employers

The University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC) has launched 'Fit for Purpose', a comprehensive resource to help Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Further Education Colleges (FECs) develop higher level vocational learning programmes which more accurately address the needs of employers.

Aimed at curriculum designers and deliverers within further and higher education, the toolkit is designed to encourage the wider use of National Occupational Standards in foundation degrees, honours degrees, postgraduate programmes and graduate apprenticeships to help ensure that:

  • The vocational learning undertaken by students is more relevant and
    meaningful to employers
  • graduates are more work-ready and attractive to potential employers.

'Fit for Purpose' is sponsored by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). Nicky Brunker, head of national marketing at the LSC, explained the rationale behind its development, "National Occupational Standards (NOS) define individual competence in performance terms, i.e. they represent the successful outcome of work activity. In excess of £100million has been invested in the development of NOS by government over the past 15 years, with a significantly greater sum contributed by employers. The result is that the UK has, arguably, the most sophisticated system of competencies in the world, which are kept up-to-date by the Skills for Business network of Sector Skills Councils.

"However, NOS are greatly underused by the majority of those responsible for designing higher education programmes - which may go some way to explaining why universities and colleges are often criticised by employers for not producing work-ready graduates. The LSC is committed to working with higher education to increase access to people with vocational skills and engage HEIs as partners in workforce development and our ongoing collaboration with UVAC on projects such as this helps us to achieve this."

Professor Simon Roodhouse, chief executive of UVAC, who co-authored 'Fit for Purpose' with UVAC consultant, David Hemsworth, added, "It's understandable why institutions have not generally embraced the standards. Firstly, they are rooted outside the usual higher education funding and regulatory systems; and secondly, the NOS language differs significantly from that used in higher education. 'Fit for Purpose' addresses this by explaining exactly what NOS are; outlining their role in vocational learning and qualifications; providing solutions to issues; sharing good practice tips and listing useful information sources.

"Additionally - following extensive research of best practice amongst UVAC members who are already effectively incorporating the standards - the toolkit includes a number of case studies which demonstrate how institutions can successfully develop learning programmes which achieve academic rigour, vocational relevance and work-ready competence."

External link

'Fit for Purpose' is available free of charge. Pdf or Word versions can be downloaded via the UVAC website ( - click on 'Publications' and select 'Fit for Purpose')

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