Young people and vocational training
The crisis in Vocational Education and Training (VET) enrolments at the beginning of this academic year will have finally ended, despite the administration's efforts, with a significant mismatch between demand and supply. On the one hand, 1,323 students will not have a place where they wanted, while there will have been 4,000 vacancies in undersubscribed courses. The two most oversubscribed have been nursing assistant (for obvious reasons: the pandemic) and microcomputer systems and networks, the second most requested in Catalonia. In both cases the job prospects are practically guaranteed, which are of great value given the level of youth unemployment we have: it affects 33.5% of young people aged 16 to 24. On the other hand, there are also courses that are very attractive for young people but have worse job prospects, such as sports technician or DJ. And finally, there are specialties that are in great demand in the market but which incomprehensibly do not find young people who want to train in them, such as electronics, mechanical manufacturing or energy efficiency. These basic distortions, added to a sudden increase in the post-pandemic demand for vocational training, have led to the undesirable situation of leaving young people (and their families) in limbo, with no alternative but to study something for which they have no vocation or to miss a year. The possibility of opting for telematic training through the Institut Obert de Catalunya, as has been offered in exchange, has an obvious limitation in a type of training that is closely linked to experience.
We are, in any case, facing a growth crisis. Vocational training, which for too many years has been labelled pejoratively, is beginning to gain prestige. But we can't afford another shock like the one we've experienced at the start of this academic year, either individually or as a society. The Catalan labour market needs many technical profiles that come out of vocational training. Not everyone needs to go to university. We must take advantage of this unfortunate episode to give new impetus to vocational training by improving the offer (insofar as possible, public; if not, subsidised), raising the bar for these studies and strengthening the relationship with productive sectors through dual training and internships.
Today, we call someone who neither works nor studies a NEET. In the past, they would have been told that they had "neither a trade nor a profession". Of course, in order to have a trade, you have to have a job, but as a precondition you need training, you have to acquire the trade. In the past, before compulsory education and formal training, there was the figure of the apprentice. This figure is now being recovered through dual vocational training and internships, albeit in many cases unpaid. Nevertheless, the path has been mapped out. It is clear that vocational training is beginning to gain prestige and that, therefore, there is a demand for it. It is therefore a question of taking advantage of this wave to take a leap forward by adjusting supply and demand as much as possible – bringing pre-enrolment forward to March is a good measure, avoiding problems such as the one that occurred at the start of this academic year and strengthening the system by working together with the educational and business worlds.