What Is Vocational Training?

What Is Vocational Training?

What Is Vocational Training?

Vocational training is a broad category of education that encompasses any learning of practical skills and knowledge.

Vocational learning is relevant to performing a specific role or working within a sector and is often achieved through direct experience.

Many different fields feature and rely upon elements of vocational learning.

Opportunities for vocational training are available, therefore, and are highly beneficial for the majority of employees, regardless of industry.

Vocational training helps equip individuals for technical and hands-on fields of work, as well as providing supplementary or new skills to those already in the workforce.

For example,

A doctor learning to administer a new treatment is undergoing vocational training, as is an apprentice carpenter learning a wood join from an experienced craftsman.

Vocational education provides its students with practical skills alongside any necessary theoretical knowledge.

The balance between classroom and work-based learning will vary according to the type of vocational training undertaken.

For many vocational courses, the formal education element is completed through an online distance learning course.

Depending on the style and level of training, it may result in a skill certification or a diploma or associate degree.

The different types of vocational training on offer are explored in greater detail below.

What Kinds of Vocational Training Are Available?

Formal Education Towards a Vocation

Formal vocational training is available across a wide range of subjects and at various levels (from Entry Level to Level 8).

Formal vocational courses prioritize practical learning to obtain and hone the skills needed in a specific job role.

They tend to be offered by further education (FE) colleges.

These colleges offer wider vocational subjects, such as business, IT, health and social care, and engineering; as well as specific vocational courses to train for specific job roles in childcare, hairdressing, cookery, plumbing or accounting.

There are also vocational schools dedicated solely to specific industries, such as the culinary arts, art and design, tourism, dentistry, and cosmetology.

Vocational courses might be full-time or part-time to flexibly fit your circumstances.

Formal Apprenticeships

During a formal apprenticeship, participants gain training for a particular job role while being employed.

The benefit of this form of vocational training is the volume of trade experience and the first-hand responsibility you will be given, alongside the associated wage.

Apprenticeships prepare workers for highly skilled practical work and often have high retention prospects. They are, therefore, often competitive to secure.

Apprenticeships also provide an opportunity to discover early on if the sector you have chosen is right for you.

Vocational learning through an apprenticeship is commonplace within trades, such as mechanics, carpentry and metalwork, or to train skilled construction professionals, such as electricians, plumbers and plasterers.

Apprenticeships are also available in sectors such as:

For more information on apprenticeships, see Apprenticeships in 2022: How to Find Them + Key Benefits or Adult Apprenticeship: A 2022 Guide articles.

On the Job Experience/Mentoring

On-the-job training is usually provided by your employer or a third-party training provider.

It seeks to provide employees with training specific to their position and responsibilities to better equip them for their daily tasks and add value to their organizational contribution.

On-the-job training often involves learning from a more experienced colleague.

This may be conducted through a formal mentor/mentee relationship or informal shadowing or pairing.

Vocational training can also be obtained through experience on the job as a volunteer or during work experience, placements or internships.

CPD (Continuous Professional Development) Accredited Courses

Continuous Professional Development (or CPD) courses fall under the umbrella of vocational learning.

These courses relate directly to a participant’s chosen (or current) career, providing an opportunity to learn new skills or approaches to apply in their workplace.

They are standalone endeavors and may vary in time commitment – from half a day to time given over several weeks.

Attending individual seminars or workshops may also count towards official CPD requirements.

Professional development of this kind is most often undertaken to secure or retain membership to professional organizations.

For example, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).

Upon affiliation, many professional organizations offer their members exclusive access to their CPD events.

To count as an official CPD, the learning in question must be approved. You will need to gain proof of completion or certification and then log the activity with the body that represents or amalgamates your CPD.

Accredited continuous professional development may also be completed to update knowledge or learn a supplementary skill or trade.

CPD is a valuable way to upskill or reskill, to competitively position yourself to take on a new responsibility or a new role.

What Is Vocational Training and How Can It Help Your Career?
What Is Vocational Training and How Can It Help Your Career?

Having a plan for how you will strengthen and advance your skills through continuous professional development is also appealing to prospective employers as it displays you are invested in constantly improving your abilities.

How Can Vocational Training Help Your Career?

Vocational training is likely to be beneficial for your career, regardless of your career stage or industry.

It is particularly valuable due to the fact it is practical, targeted learning.

The content of a vocational training course is specifically relevant to your chosen workplace, and a significant portion of the learning is obtained through hands-on experience.

This ensures you emerge from the training with practical skills to apply, as opposed to only a theoretical grounding in the subject.

Getting On the Career Ladder

Undertaking vocational training though a further education college or as an apprenticeship will help your career prospects by teaching you a specific skill or trade to specialize in and build your career around.

Vocational training is the gateway into many in-demand professions. Electricians, plumbers, builders, beauticians and mechanics all learn through vocational training.

Nursing schools, medical schools and law schools could also be considered to deliver vocational training.

Vocational learning can result in certifications, diplomas and associate degrees that all serve as incredibly valuable entry qualifications.

Employers seek real-life experience from prospective employees and evidence of successes with the world of work. Within a competitive job market, educational qualifications are no longer enough.

Academic qualifications are valuable, but they often lack the sought-after practical experience that a vocational approach provides.

Completing vocational learning will help you to obtain practical knowledge, skills, and desirable experience of their implementation.

It may also provide you with the opportunity to receive a salary while training, likely boosting starting salary upon qualification.


Once you have secured a job, continuing to improve your existing skills and obtain new talents relevant to your career path will not only improve your performance on the job but increase the confidence of yourself and others in your abilities.

Employees who are readily willing to take on new training display a commitment to their role and the responsibilities they hold, which impresses employers.

Vocational training on the job will help you to gain additional skills, and it is worth considering that these may put you in a better position for a promotion.

If you work in an office environment, vocational training is also applicable through training on new software – such as project management or payroll applications.

The practical nature of this learning means that you will be able to quickly apply the knowledge obtained to improve effectiveness and streamline operations.

Although likely focused on developing a specific skill area, vocational training also has benefits for your transferable skills.

Most training will involve using communication skills (whether written or verbal) and may involve team working or improving your ability to collaborate with new people.

Undertaking any learning also involves utilizing your skills of comprehension and deduction, alongside the ability to absorb and retain information.

Vocational training will also likely engage your skills of time management and discipline, as it takes to structure and dedication to undertake education.

Established/Senior Professionals

Regardless of experience level, it is always important to treat learning as a continuous and infinite pursuit. Industries advance rapidly, particularly concerning technological developments.

Checking in to update your skills and learn new approaches can only be beneficial to your working life.

Courses to refresh your technical knowledge or introduce you to a new piece of software help you to stay at the top of your game.

Usefully, vocational learning tends to be flexible, and employers are usually happy to see their staff undertake it.

The learning can, therefore, be made to fit comfortably around your current schedule and responsibilities.

Vocational Training and Career Progression

Alongside networking and mentoring or coaching, investing in your training and development will help you to increase your rate of career progression.

Vocational training is an excellent way to equip yourself with new skills, evidence the value you bring to your organization, and progress up the career ladder.

Career progression may refer to moving on to a new job, but it may also take the form of receiving a pay raise or gaining further responsibility in your current role.

You may also wish to progress your career by starting your business venture or company.

Regardless of what career progression means to you, the chances are that vocational training will better prepare you for your next career stage.

It will also ensure you remain competitive within a recruitment environment where job seekers are constantly investing in obtaining new professional qualifications.

For example:

  • Taking a practical management course could help you to evidence that you are ready to take on a managerial role within your company.

  • Taking a course in a new aspect of renewable energy engineering could help you to diversify your project portfolio.

  • Training in facilitation and delivering online learning could enable you to head your company’s training and development program.

It may be the case that a particular professional qualification is a requirement for employment at the next job level or salary bracket within your company, so its completion may open new doors.

Final Thoughts

At any career stage, investing in vocational training will provide you with tangible skills that can be applied within the workplace.

It equips young people with in-demand trade skills and ensures established professionals continue to expand their repertoire.

Learning how to use new methods, approaches or technology will not only make you better at your job, but it will also make you more desirable to other employers.

Even if you are at a pre/early career stage and find the chosen vocation is not for you, vocational training provides valuable work experience, evidencing your ability to work independently and take on responsibility.

Vocational training could result in a valuable qualification, new job or promotion and, if not, the experience of learning itself is valuable to your personal development and career path.

You never know how you may find yourself using skills you obtained through vocational training in your future job roles, so grasp every opportunity to stay up to date in your field and learn new practical skills.

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