Above: NEC Marketing and Communications Officer Kirsty stands in front of a selection of materials for NEC distance learning courses

A recent article published in TES: reported “Students enrolling for A levels is set to increase by around 4,000, against a decline in enrolments to vocational programmes.” These statistics were taken from University Admission Service – UCAS.

In this week’s blog, Marketing and Communications Officer – Kirsty Inman reflects on the benefits of vocational courses based on her own experience of studying a BTEC National Certificate in Travel and Tourism.

‘I have never been  natural academic  especially  when it comes to exams, which is why I thought I’d benefit more from taking a vocational course which didn’t include exams but was coursework based – a learning style I was more confident with.

The BTEC National Certificate that I studied was equivalent to two A levels and I am proud to say that I achieved a double grade Distinction, something which I didn’t think I would have been able to achieve if I had taken the more academic A level route. I’m not saying vocational qualifications are easier, (a lot of hard work was put into my course), they just have different learning approaches.  It was important to me to feel comfortable with a course I had chosen and it  helped me onto the correct career path.

I didn’t get that magical C grade in GCSE Maths but the vocational programme, included a Level 3 Applications of Number qualification (equivalent to GCSE’s). I found this really useful and it made me more confident with Maths – acting as a bit of a refresher’.

After I studied the BTEC I decided to find a job but because the Travel and Tourism industry is very competitive I didn’t succeed in finding a job related to that industry but one that was working as a temporary sales assisstant. During my Travel and Tourism course I realised I was passionate about marketing which was one of the sections I learned about so I decided to take up a career in marketing. I have been a marketing professional for over four and a half years and I decided to further my education in marketing. I studied a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Marketing and Communications and an Introductory Certificate in Marketing. This gave me the confidence to find my feet in my marketing career and to continue to progress.

As you can see from my own experience, there are many benefits for vocational programmes. My advice if you are facing a dilemma is to make sure you carry out lots of research into your subject area and identify the pros and cons of A levels compared with vocational programmes. There are many benefits for each but it is down to what learning style you feel more comfortable with. If you’re thinking of going to University – both A levels and vocational programmes count towards earning credits you need to secure you a place.

At the NEC we offer both, with around 20 A level subjects as well as a number of vocational courses in business and management, book-keeping and childcare.

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