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Young people in low level vocational education: characteristics, trajectories and labour market outcomes

Sophie  Hedges,  Vahé  Nafilyan,  Stefan  Speckesser,  Augustin  de Coulon,  March 2017
Paper No' CVERDP004: | Full paper (pdf)
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Keywords: vocational education, apprenticeships, progression routes

JEL Classification: I21;I24;C55

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Although 10% of school leavers in England start low level vocational education (normally below Level 2, ‘BL2’), very little is known about the characteristics of learners, their participation in vocational education and their labour market outcomes. Benefiting from large size linked administrative data for a full cohort of young people, we use sequence analysis methods to understand the similarities and differences in the biographies of young people who engaged in BL2 programmes initially, and create clusters of learners with similar biographies. As a result of our exploratory analysis, we find four main BL2 trajectories which can help policy makers target their interventions more efficiently: About 45% of all BL2 learners show a clear progression in college-based vocational education to programmes at higher levels, while 21% make a transition into a persistent NEET status, mainly from dropping out in year one. Another 21% move to sustained employment, mainly after their first year, sometimes after undertaking a Level 2 qualification. Progression to apprenticeships was achieved by 13%. Another key finding is that achieving the low level qualification started by the age of 16 leads to better employment prospects and to higher earnings four years later. This suggests that policy should encourage and support adolescents’ engagement until they successfully gain their (low level) qualification.