Vocational Training is in good health: driven by a new law that will significantly strengthen its dual nature, the number of enrollments continues to increase, and the demand is well above the supply of existing places in the public system. In the last five years, the number of students in Vocational Training has increased, on average, by 29.8%, while in its modality on-line It has done so by 157% in the same period, to represent almost one in four students (23.6%) in the 2021-22 academic year, according to data from the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. And yet, the data also shows a more worrying aspect: the gender gap not only exists, but continues to widen.
A growth, that of Vocational Training, which is explained by several factors: “These are studies that stand out mainly for being practical and flexible, and they put students in contact with the business fabric. In addition, from the academic and professional orientation offered in ESO, greater importance is being given to FP”, says Josep Lluís Segú, general director of Educaweb and director of the Educaedu Training Observatory.
However, adds Segú, some challenges persist, because, beyond the gender gap, “VT continues to carry a stigma as a second option, and there is still a long way to go to be equal in prestige to university education.” A perception, yes, much more linked to Intermediate Vocational Training than to Higher Vocational Training, which enjoys greater recognition. A recent study on the perception of Vocational Training for mothers and fathers, carried out by CaixaBank Dualiza, corroborates this: 77% of families believe that in Spain there are prejudices against Vocational Training, although only 23% acknowledge having them.
Preconceived ideas also fail when it comes to job placement: “Only two out of 10 families want their children to attend vocational training, and six out of 10 think that university students have more job opportunities. But, in practice, job placement during the years immediately after graduation is higher for vocational training students than for university graduates”, recalls Segú. According to a recent analysis carried out by the CaixaBank Dualiza Knowledge and Innovation Center, in collaboration with Orkestra Basque Institute of Competitiveness, 57% of graduates from higher dual vocational training obtain employment within a year of finishing their studies (compared to 42% of the non-dual).
A persistent gender gap
Women continue to be a minority within this educational option, although this disparity is observed above all in Basic Vocational Training, where they represent 29.5% of the total. In the Intermediate and Higher Levels, the figures are much closer: 45.1% women in the first and 48.9% in the second, according to the statistics provided by the Ministry itself. Within the FP on-line, however, the trend is the opposite, being 65.7% of the students in Intermediate Degrees, and 61.7% in Higher Education.
As is the case with certain university studies, the gender bias is much more evident when analyzing different educational families, as is the case in cycles in the field of new technologies and industry. In Computer Science and Telecommunications, for example, they only represent 7.9% of the Intermediate Degree and 14.3% of the Superior (while, in the 2003-2004 academic year, they were around 24% in both). And in Installation and Maintenance or Electricity and Electronics, they barely make up 2.3% of the students enrolled in Intermediate Level and 4.5% in Superior. On the other hand, in the degrees linked to health and care, the female presence increases and, in some cases, with overwhelming majorities: in the Health cycles, three out of four students are women, both for the intermediate cycle and for the superior.
A gap that can be explained, to a large extent, by acquired gender stereotypes. “Some women do not choose certain studies because they believe they will be labeled unfeminine, and vice versa, some men rule out certain professions because they perceive them as unmanly,” says Segú. Misconceptions that, according to a study published in the journal Science, they manifest themselves from an early age: from the age of six, girls are less likely to associate intelligence and genius with their gender, and they tend to avoid activities that require being brilliant. “Gender stereotypes are very important determining factors when choosing studies. For this reason, the job of counselors, educators and families is to help young people make their professional life project decisions based on their interests and abilities with the greatest freedom”, reflects the director of the Educaedu Observatory.
For this, claims Segú, it is necessary for academic and professional guidance to begin in earlier stages of the students’ training itinerary, such as Primary Education. But it is also possible to fight against stereotypes “by giving visibility to the achievements of FP graduates in families where the presence of women is much lower than that of men; or offering incentives such as scholarships and aid to encourage more young women to choose vocational training”. Inequalities between the sexes affect not only the choice of studies, but also reach “their access to employment, job promotion, remuneration and other aspects related to professional life”, according to the Educaedu study.
In Spain (and as stated in the Educaedu Training Observatory), the gender perspective in vocational training has been gradually incorporated in recent years, thanks to the development of specific programs to promote gender equality in training and the implementation of measures to eliminate the previously mentioned stereotypes.
The most demanded FP qualifications
Although from the analysis carried out within the observatory (among the searches carried out by users of the Educaedu group), a preference for face-to-face training is appreciated, this trend varies according to the type of studies: thus, for example, in master’s degrees, the most of the searches were for programs on-line (from the fourth quarter of 2021 and throughout 2022). In non-regulated courses, the majority opted for face-to-face and, in university degrees, interest seems little by little to also return to face-to-face, after two years of fluctuations.
Among the advantages of distance learning (and, within it, online VT), experts point to greater flexibility that allows students to better reconcile study with their personal and even professional life, if they are already working. But also the fact that “any student, wherever they live, can access the wide range of VT qualifications available, without being conditioned by the range of degrees available in the centers close to their home”, says Segú. In any case, it should be taken into account that studies in this modality require a higher level of commitment and resilience on the part of the student body, “since they will not have the permanent face-to-face support of the professors nor the emotional support that being part of a class group”, he adds. Therefore, if you want to take a training cycle on-line, These factors should be kept in mind when choosing a center:
- The tutoring and accompaniment proposal that they have available to the students.
- Make sure that the content and teaching methodologies are specifically designed for the distance modality.
- Check the level of personalization of these contents and methodologies, and if they are adjustable to the level of understanding of each one and their digital management.
- Existence of programs onboarding (mentoring) for new students.
- Check what kind of internships in the company you will have access to. Make sure that the center will provide viable and quality practices in organizations within your territory.
Within the face-to-face Vocational Training cycles, the most sought after are those for technicians in Auxiliary Nursing Care and in Pharmacy and Parapharmacy; senior technicians in Marketing and Advertising and Early Childhood Education; Technician in Electrical and Automatic Installations and Senior Technician in Social Integration. in the FP on-line the cycles of Nursing Auxiliary Care and Pharmacy and Parapharmacy stand out; Higher Technician in Early Childhood Education; Senior Technician in Web Application Development and Technician in Administrative Management.
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