Opinion

The Duke of York's new vocational award will make a difference

4 min read

08 July 2013

Charlie Mullins welcomes His Royal Highness The Duke of York into his "Common Sense Hall of Fame" for his no-nonsense respect of vocational skills.

I’d like to welcome the latest entrant to the “Charlie Mullins’ Common Sense Hall of Fame”, His Royal Highness The Duke of York.

Prince Andrew, a Navy-trained helicopter pilot, has called for greater respect for young people who train to be machinists, builders or technicians and that vocational skills deserve higher recognition.

Although The Duke of York is sometimes given a hard time by certain quarters of the media, I don’t think there is anyone out there who can disagree with his comments. In fact, it’s great that another high profile person has thrown their weight behind the value of vocational training.

For too long, vocational learning has been seen as a poor relation to the traditional academic route, which has been very much to the detriment to large parts of our economy.  

This has been exacerbated by Tony Blair’s “Education, Education, Education” generation of “university at all costs”,  which has left us facing considerable skills gaps in the near and medium term future.

I was fortunate enough to be invited last week to be part of The Sun’s employment road shows, which, quite simply, aimed to get unemployed people into jobs across the UK. 

I was totally impressed by the enthusiasm of so many people who turned up and it reaffirmed my belief that this country does have a large group of people who are desperate to get into work rather than languish on benefits.

What did concern me was that, in general, the education many of these people had received didn’t provide them with practical skills or competencies that would have enabled employers to offer a wider scope of jobs.

This is why the support of people like Prince Andrew is essential to help increase the volume of noise from the vocational education lobby that not only wants practical training to be on a par with academic learning, but made a priority.

If the economy is to start building new foundations on what appears to be the first signs of fresh growth then it is going to need engineers, builders and, of course, plumbers, to build the roads, houses, power stations, wind farms, etc, that the country needs.

I am sure I am not alone among employers in thinking that the education system needs to churn out candidates more suited to our needs.

This is why I think Prince Andrew’s Duke of York Award for Technical Education, which he launches today, is a another step in the right direction. 

Based on his father’s well-established Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards, the Prince Andrew version will issue certificates for a combination of vocational qualifications, work experience and skills such as problem-solving, team work and communications.

The question is, will this award make a difference?  Well, my simple answer is yes.  Someone applying for a job with me with a Duke of York Award on their CV will be giving themselves a real head start in what is always a very crowded market.

I am in no doubt other employers will feel the same. 

Charlie Mullins is the CEO and founder of Pimlico Plumbers.