In 2016 Cedefop launched its first ever opinion survey aimed at investigating EU citizens’ opinions on vocational education and training.
A total of 35 646 face-to-face interviews were conducted with citizens of the Member States. The survey provides an unprecedented perspective on EU citizens’ opinions on awareness, attractiveness, experience and effectiveness of vocational education and training in the EU.
Awareness and understanding VET
Most EU citizens (86%) say that they had heard of VET before their interview, and this includes 71% who say that they had heard of it and know precisely what it is. Predictably, knowledge is higher among respondents who went to upper secondary education, but it is the same among those who took vocational education and those who took general education at the upper secondary stage.
When asked about several aspects of VET, respondents are most likely to associate it with ‘preparing you for a specific occupation’; almost nine in 10 respondents (87%) say that this always or often applies to VET. Respondents are equally likely to associate VET with a work environment and a school environment; it is also associated with continuous professional development and ‘taking place before starting working life’. This suggests that VET has a fairly strong image as something that combines and bridges the worlds of education and employment, but that encompasses both continuous and initial training, school and work-based approaches.
Information and guidance
Only 48% of respondents whose education was primarily general in nature say they received information about vocational education when making a decision about their upper secondary education; just under three in four respondents who did vocational education (72%) say that they were given information.
One in four respondents (25%) who did general education says that someone advised him/her against taking vocational education when deciding on upper secondary education. This proportion varies markedly between countries; it is highest in Hungary (51%), Romania (48%) and Italy (47%), and lowest in the Netherlands (9%), Denmark (12%) and the UK (14%).
The two main reasons for choosing vocational education at upper secondary level are the likelihood of finding a job (46%) and interest in the subjects (41%). The next most popular reasons are because their family or friends advised them to (31%), career prospects (27%), being good at the subjects (23%), and the possibility of having a good salary (23%). Those who followed vocational education are more likely than those in general education to say that it was because of the likelihood of finding a job, because of the length of studies, and because someone from the world of work advised them to. However, some reasons are more likely to be given by those who took general education than those who took vocational education: the possibility of continuing to higher education, being good at the subjects and career prospects.
Attractiveness of vocational education
Around two thirds of Europeans (68%) think that vocational education at the upper secondary stage has a positive image in their country, while just under a quarter (23%) say that it has a negative image. Respondents in Malta (89%), Finland (84%), the Czech Republic (77%), the UK (75%) and Italy (75%) are most likely to say that vocational training has a positive image, while the proportions that say it has a negative image are highest in France (44%), Hungary (43%), Belgium (42%) and the Netherlands (41%).
Most EU citizens agree that ‘people in vocational education learn skills that are needed by employers in [country]’ (86%), while agreement is slightly lower on the other issues: ‘vocational education allows you to find a job quickly after obtaining a qualification or diploma’ (67% agree), ‘vocational education leads to well-paid jobs’ (61%), and ‘vocational education leads to jobs that are highly regarded in [country]’ (60%). Overall, these findings confirm the generally positive image of vocational education across the EU, particularly in terms of gaining relevant employment skills. Respondents are most likely to hold positive views about vocational education and employment in Germany, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, Austria and Poland; while the lowest levels of agreement are found in Belgium, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia.
Just over half of Europeans (54%) agree that ‘it is easy to continue into higher education such as university after vocational education at upper secondary education’, while 31% disagree. People who undertook vocational education themselves are more likely to agree with the statement than those from general education (61% compared with 53%).
Views are divided as to whether it would be easy for someone aged 16 to 18 who had started vocational education to switch to general education: two in five EU citizens (41%) say that it would be easy, but almost the same proportion (42%) think it would be difficult.
Two-thirds (67%) of respondents who did vocational education themselves agree that vocational education provides opportunities to study or work abroad. Those who did general education at the upper secondary stage are less likely to agree (58%).
Comparing vocational and general education
Most EU citizens agree that ‘general education has a more positive image than vocational education’ in their country. This particularly applies to respondents who went into general education themselves (82% agree). However, those who participated in vocational education are also likely to agree with the statement (71%).
Three in four EU citizens (75%) agree that students with low grades are directed towards vocational education in their country, and just under two in three (63%) agree that it is easier to get a qualification in vocational education than in general education.
However, EU citizens perceive vocational education as providing better employment prospects than general education. When thinking about upper secondary education, most respondents say that people who complete vocational education are more likely to find a job than those who complete general education (59%): 13% say they are less likely to find a job and 19% say there is no difference.
Two in five EU citizens (40%) also think that people who complete vocational education are more likely to find a job than those who go on to higher education, while 28% think they are less likely to find a job, and 20% say there is no difference. Responses on these issues are similar between those who did vocational education and those who did general education at the upper secondary stage.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Cedefop European public opinion survey on vocational education and training | Cedefop