The Target for Higher Level Skills in an International Context

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A study placed the numbers of workers who have attained National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) at level 4 or above in the United Kingdom (UK) in an international context by comparing this attainment with the numbers of workers reaching similar attainment in a sample of other countries: Australia, France, Germany, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States. The study, based on available literature and data, found that 23.4 percent of workers in the UK had attained NVQ level 4 or above in Spring 1995, whereas the other countries' workers who had reached that skill level ranged from 18.1 percent in Australia to 30 percent in the United States. The study also showed that the UK has shown recent improvement in its attainment rate and is likely to reach 30 percent in the early years of the 21st century (a few years past its goal of reaching that level by the year 2000). In addition, the UK and France have the highest graduation rates at NVQ level 4 and above, just ahead of the United States. Significant growth in professional, technical, administrative and managerial occupations, all of which require higher skill levels, is expected in the five countries for which forecasts are available, along with a significant decrease in the number of 20- to 24-year-olds. For the UK to meet its target, there will have to be further improvements in the profile of the existing work force and in the supply of those qualifying in the education and training system and entering employment. (An appendix provides further information about modeling future attainment rates at NVQ level 4 and above of those in employment. Contains 170 references.) (KC)