What is Vocational Excellence?

In September 2021, the FFCoVE contracted Scarlatti Ltd (who subsequently sub-contracted Skills Consulting Group) to deliver the Taking Stock project; an assessment of the state of vocational education and training across the Food and Fibre sector. One of the deliverables in this project was a literature review of vocational excellence.

This article is an extract from the early work done by Skills Consulting Group as part of their framing the research questions to inform the literature review. It will be updated from time to time as new information comes to hand.


Taking the key terms in turn: Vocational excellence refers to “high quality and relevance to the world of work and to the attractiveness of the educational offer to learners and to employers.” (ETF – Centres of Vocational Excellence)

variously refers to subjective measures of satisfaction – particularly of industries and employers, or stretch in terms of systems going beyond the minimum expectations.  In the immediate post-COVID environment (as well as industry 4.0, automation and the ‘gig’ economy) this is characterised by the emerging role for VET systems and institutions to prepare people for an irrevocably changed labour market landscape and new ways of working.  More generally, excellence in VET tends to be applied independently or in combination to terms of a number of desirable system features, including but not limited to:

  • Sustainable financing
  • Responsiveness to labour market and industry needs
  • Offering continuous and lifelong learning opportunities
  • Clear pathways and permeability (horizontal and vertical)
  • Formalises and credentialises skills and experience
  • National employer recognition
  • Employability, mobility, and portability


We also find multiple references to current and future direction of travel for VET systems, notably: “formalising the informal”  increasing recognition that informal and non-formal learning occurring in workplaces is developing skills and experience that can be recognised through credentials and qualifications, including through recognition of prior learning, augmented for the purposes of upskilling and reskilling, as part of continuing vocational education, and to support lifelong learning.

We find increasing acceptance that inclusive vocational education is a marker of excellence. This especially makes sense when VET is framed in terms of maximising the potential of the available skills in the labour market. This particularly goes to equity issues, and creates a focus on how well the system is developing employability and attending to the needs of vulnerable groups – i.e. those needing most support to enter and succeed in the labour market.


VET systems are seen as core to moves towards sustainable societies and green economies, through developing workforces underpinned by sustainable development as well as adoption of green technologies.


The rise of digital technologies is changing vocational education at the same time is transforming the industries that VET systems serve.  This creates opportunities and challenges to deliver VET in new ways (mobile onsite learning, simulation, AI, virtual reality)

Mix of technical competency and core capabilities
A future of work dynamic, recognising that the changing world of work requires constant upskilling – therefore core skills such as the ability to learn itself, adaptability, and cross-cutting capabilities – e.g. communication and digital literacies, are increasingly seen as desirable elements of VET systems and programmes, and a core area where partnerships and integrated between workplaces and providers becomes critical.

Was this helpful?