Society 07/09/2021

Decisive week for the future of thousands of VET students

Education Dpt will allot 10,000 vacancies and 4,215 new places this week

3 min
Young people doing vocational training.

BarcelonaWith only a week left to start the course, thousands of young people still do not know whether or not they will be able to study the vocational education and training (VET) course they want. Today, the number of those affected who could be left without a place is not known. The uncertainty is maximum: the avalanche of applications to take lower and upper VET courses left hundreds of applicants without a place and the Government was forced to create new ones urgently. However, during the process there have also been 8,000 resignations. Thus begins a decisive week for the educational, labour and personal future of thousands of young Catalans.

The boom in inscriptions in VET caught the Department of Education unawares. To decide on the educational offer, the heads of Education always take into account the number of students in the last year of secondary school and the birth rate of the previous years. Until now it had worked: every year there was an increase of between 1.5% and 2% in vocational training, a manageable figure. But this year the forecasts have been blown out of the water: 96,000 people signed up, 23% more than last year. What happened? Where do the additional applicants come from? According to the Education Dpt, there has been a very large increase in older students who were not in the formal education system and who, affected by the pandemic and furlough, have decided to go back to studying. Between 25% and 30% of applicants to lower VETs were over 20, whereas these places are usually taken by students aged 16 or 17 who have just finished compulsory education.

Faced with these figures, the unions warned in July that about 10,000 young people would be left without their desired option in the public system, which "will force them to pay to study what they really want to do or to take a secondary option". This was of great concern to the education sector, because it could mean an increase in the risk of dropping out of school, a major problem in Catalonia and especially in VET, one of the stages with the highest dropout rate in the entire education system. That is why the Government announced that, to cope with the sharp increase in enrolments, it would open 60 new groups and increase ratios to the most demanded cycles to create 4,000 new places. Although they gave some hope to some young people, these places were insufficient to cover the 14,000 extra applications that had been registered compared to the previous year.

Increase in places for vocational training

The fact is that the figures are not yet final. Neither the 4,000 new places announced nor the more than 10,000 places that have been left vacant have been awarded yet. According to data the department of Education has provided ARA with, of the 31.358 places that were offered in upper VET courses 6.042 have remained empty, 19%, whereas 4.681 places of the 38.651 in lower VET are waiting to be filled, 12,2% of the total. These are places in specialties where no one has applied and up to 8,000 are from people who were initally offered the place but have finally decided to give it up (perhaps because they will finally go to university or no longer want to continue their training).

14.000 places at stake this week

This week, then, is decisive because the places that have been vacant will be distributed (after the second registration period, the vacancies will be alloted on Tuesday, September 7, to students who have requested them) and a new extraordinary process will also be opened, from 8 to 10, to put names and surnames to the 4,215 new places announced. "Anyone may pre-register, but priority will be given to people who made the application in the ordinary period," says the department. But the families have denounced that the criteria to distribute the places is not at all clear

There could be more opportunities if the Department of Education accepts the offer made by the employer association Pimec, which this weekend offered 1,900 places (which would have to be publicly funded) to solve the serious deficit in vocational training. Be that as it may, it seems quite clear that to avoid being left without a place there will be students who will end up studying options they had not requested. "The impact of this imbalance will have serious social, cultural, educational and economic consequences in the coming years," the Forum of Cities with Vocational Training Council, formed by 53 municipalities, warned in July.