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Vocational education is studies which prepare students for the world of work which might include training based within the workplace or workplace-like situations (like a car workshop).
Vocational education became particularly relevant in the 1970s, as the economy had begun to falter and unemployment was extremely high, especially among young males. Politian's and academics stated we needed to equip school leavers with relevant skills needed in industry. This would make Britain more economically competitive. These ideas were in tune with the views of the New Right. The general view was education's main function was to provide the economy with a skilled workforce (Marxism). Vocational education and training teaches specialist skills needed to perform roles in the division of labour so meeting economic needs of society.
Paul Stephens (2001) argues that there has always been class snobbery between those that are trained and those that are 'educated'. He argues that this snobbery does not exist in many other countries. He says this accounts for why, in the UK, many people see A- levels as being more socially acceptable than vocational qualifications.
Dan Finn (1987) argued that poor economic management was responsible for unemployment rather than a lack of skills of young people. He believed that vocational education provides cheap labour rather than useful training, it depresses wages for other young worker, it reduces politically embarrassing employment statistics. However, it removes young people from the streets and therefore reduces crime.
Phil Cohen (1984) - a Marxist sociologist, thought that in many vocational programmes young people were used as cheap labour instead of being trained in the workplace to learn new and valuable skills.