What do you use better? A university degree or a FP degree?





What do you use better? A university degree or a FP degree?


The university and the higher degrees of the FP compete in giving greater employability to the people they train. Which of the two systems is more efficient? Experts and data answer.


Luis began his degree in Political Science at the Complutense University of Madrid. At the end of the second year, he realized that he was not convinced. “At eighteen I think you're still too young to know what you want; besides, I went to university because it was a bit of what I played. I didn't even know at the time that higher grades existed." Luis decided to leave university and start a higher degree in Audiovisual Production and Realization of Professional Training (FP). He now works as a photographer and video clip maker , as a freelancer. “It is true that my parents conditioned me a bit: they had gone to university and were also unaware of VET, but I am very happy with my decision to change”.

Data from the EPA for the third quarter of 2019 show that people who have university studies or higher vocational training are the least unemployed : only 8.81%. And, on the other hand, people who only have primary education have an unemployment rate of 25.7%, and those who have only a high school or intermediate degree suffer 14.5% unemployment. In this sense, the level of studies that has experienced a greater increase in its employability rate is not that of university students, but that of intermediate studies. That is, Vocational Training .


"VET trains you and gives you employability," says Clara Sanz , responsible for VT at the Ministry of Education. “Employers have long understood that middle and high school students were important and highly qualified. The idea that those who do FP do so because they are not worth studying is an outdated way of thinking . Little close to what it really is. The question is not whether to study a university degree or a vocational training degree. Both studies are not incompatible. The challenge is to guide young peopleto find what they want to do, in what area they can develop both personally and professionally. "They should be guided fundamentally by what attracts them and arouses their curiosity, which is usually a good guarantee of success in the future," adds Lucila Finkel , Professor of Sociology at the Complutense University of Madrid.

VET offers more employment

Vocational training is overcoming the discredit it suffered in the past in our country. In recent years, it has carried out a modernization of its study offer and its connection with the business fabric . The application of the dual model, which combines theoretical training in the classroom with internships in companies , as well as the distance model, have been key in its development. This has resulted in an exponential growth in the number of students opting for vocational training. During the 2019-2020 academic year, 23,000 new students enrolled, so that the student population in all its branches amounted to 861,806. Even so, this figure is far from the rest of the OECD countries, with an average of 26% enrollment rate in VET, compared to 12% of Spain.

Nick is 19 years old . He has just started a higher degree of Social Integration in a concerted center of the Community of Madrid. He before she completed the intermediate degree of Care for People in Dependency Situations . “ From the first day we had real contact with what we were studying . Before doing the compulsory internships, every Friday we went to a nursing home. That's where you really learn,” says Nico.


VET is overcoming the loss of prestige it suffered in the past and has modernized its offer and its connection with companies

This is one of the main reasons why young people opt for VET. They acquire technical and practical knowledge in a short time, each intermediate or higher degree cycle lasts two years , and they also have training practices in companies or centers in the sector. “When I finished my internship, the company where I was working offered me to stay. I wanted to continue studying because the middle grade falls a bit short at an academic level. Now I do the superior and at the same time I continue working in the same place”, adds Nico.

Many vocational training students affirm that this contact with the world of work was fundamental when opting for one training or another. Often, in universities, this more practical training is not given, and many university graduates enter the labor market without any previous work experience , which complicates their insertion. “I have many classmates who have a university degree. They decided to get into the higher grade of FP because it is much more practical and they couldn't find anything of theirs, "says Nico.

According to a study by Infoempleo, in Spain almost half of the job offers , 18% intermediate level and 25% higher level, required people with vocational training. In fact, during 2018, the demand for these profiles exceeded that of university students, which stands at 38%. The intermediate vocational training areas that concentrate the greatest number of offers are administration and management , and electricity and electronics . During 2018, more than 12% and 7% of the job offer, respectively, were for these two areas. The Industry and Production sectors are the sectors that require the most qualified VT. The most demanded professions are those of maintenance technician, commercials and programmers .



Clara Sanz , responsible for VT at the Ministry of Education, affirms that the main problem of VT today is the lack of places: “There are more people who stay out than enter”. Furthermore, there is still a long way to go. Countries like Germany, Switzerland, Austria or even Canada are successful examples of this educational model. "The priority is to make studies more accessible, and not only for young people, but for all the people who need to update themselves." In addition, work is being done on an internationalization of FP, with stays in other countries or double degrees, with France, for example. "You have to understand that vocational training generates talent," says Sanz.

Job offers for higher level FP are very similar to those for intermediate level. However, they appear among those that concentrate the largest number of offers, the areas of graphic arts and chemistry .

But Vocational Training is not only a quick way to find a job. Higher level training cycles are often a bridge to later continue studying at university . In Catalonia, 21% of university students have accessed through VET, according to data from the Barcelona City Council's VET Guide.


21% of university students in Catalonia accessed the degree through a FP

This is the case of Carla , who accessed the degree in Communication and Cultural Industries at the University of Barcelona in this way. Carla, in the second year of high school, did not manage to enter the university after having failed a subject in June . In September, she no longer had any more places. Currently, if you have the Higher Technician degree , that is, the degree that certifies that you have studied a higher degree, you do not have to take the selectivity test to enter the University. “In the higher grade I got an average grade of seven, I took two electives in the selectivity to raise my grade and I ended up with an eleven, which allowed me to enter the university degree to spare,” says Carla.

The opposite also happens: students who finish university first and, in the end, their vocation directs them towards VET. This is the case of Ana , who studied Business Administration and a master's degree in international trade. Ana worked for three years, one of them in the Chamber of Commerce and the other two in a large multinational company . But she realized that it was not what she really wanted to do. At the age of 26, she decided to take a 180º turn in her professional career and begin a cycle of higher-level vocational training in Social Integration.. “I got into the University through inertia: my decision to change was risky, because at home it was difficult for them to understand that I wanted to do a vocational training”. Ana is about to finish high school, and although she is aware that her income working in the social field will be lower than when she worked in the multinational, she does not regret the change .

The university branches with the greatest employability are those of an increasingly digitized and automated society : they are the so-called STEM areas (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), that is, science, technology , engineering and mathematics. Companies practically raffle off graduates in one of these specialties. A young recent graduate can start earning 30,000 euros per year, that is, considerably more than the average salary of Spaniards , which in 2019 was 23,645 euros per year , according to the INE.



With the arrival of the Bologna Plan , many new degrees appeared that try to accommodate both the demands of the market and the interests of society. The current specialization of degrees and universities favors engineering to a greater extent . The other branch of studies that is in the highest positions of employability is health.

The careers of medicine, optics and optometry and pharmacy , are among the three degrees with the highest job placement . Why so much work for doctors, opticians and pharmacists? Due to the aging of the population: with age, we have more ailments, we see worse and we take more medicines. The average salary of a young doctor does not fall below 34,000 euros, according to the Ministry of Science.

The degrees with less employment are the degrees in Tourism , Management and Public Administration and the degree in Criminology . A factor to highlight in this employability table is the degree of adequacy between the training of the graduates and the tasks they perform. In the graduates of the degrees with less employability, only 20% on average , in most cases, are dedicated to what they studied for .

The university offer according to data from the Ministry of Education in 2018 was 2,864 different graduate degrees . The Spanish university has more than 1.2 million students enrolled. In fact, in Spain , 44% of young people between the ages of 25 and 34 have a university degree . This places us in tune with the rest of the OECD countries. “Proof of this is both the success that our students have when they carry out Erasmus stays abroad, as well as the high demand for Spanish graduates in different European countries. This highlights the quality and competitiveness of our teaching ”, comments Professor Finkel, Professor of Sociology at the Complutense University of Madrid.


Between 2000 and 2016, the working-age population with university education increased by 80% in Spain, reaching 7.6 million people. “ The challenge is the adjustment between university education and labor markets , without falling into a university à la carte of what employers want. The strength of universities lies in the fact that they are generators of universal knowledge, and that knowledge can then be applied in all areas of society”, points out Luis Enrique Alonso , economist and professor of Sociology at the Autonomous University of Madrid.

The university degrees that receive the most students are engineering , the degree in Business Administration and Management and the degree in Law , with more than 100,000 students enrolled in all of them. The Autonomous Communities with the largest number of university students are Madrid, Catalonia and Andalusia, with more than 200,000 students each, followed by the Valencian Community, with 123,000. These communities are the ones with the greatest number of degrees, since some they are only taught at universities in these regions.

However, experts point out that there is a mismatch between the supply of university degrees and the demand for employment among young people: this is due to the very structure of the Spanish labor market and its limitations.

Overqualification and overqualification



David is 27 years old and studied Law and Business Administration at the Autonomous University of Madrid. Having worked at a major aerospace company for three years after graduation, always on temporary contracts , he is now looking for a job. "It is costing more than he thought, especially establishing the first contact with companies."

Like David, there are thousands of young college graduates looking for jobs. Many of them will end up in a job for which they are overqualified or that has nothing to do with their studies. After three months actively searching for a job and having gone through several selection processes, David still can't find anything. “I have applied for jobs that I knew I was more than ready for, but would rather lower the bar and secure a position. But not like that, ”he says.

In Spain , according to a report by the BBVA Foundation that analyzes the employment of young university students, it is estimated that 35% of employed workers with higher education are overqualified . Spain ranks first in Europe in this study, followed by Cyprus and Turkey. Countries like Germany or Portugal are below 20%. This means that there is a mismatch in the educational level and employment, which has a large part of workers with higher education in our country. However, according to this report, it is more appropriate to speak of overqualification than of overqualification, since the skills of university graduates, on many occasions, do not differ from the skills that a post-compulsory secondary school graduate may have in any other advanced country .

"We would have to review what is failing in our country in relation to those basic skills that should be acquired in compulsory education and strengthened in post-compulsory levels," says Lucila Finkel. Despite this, the problem does not seem to be the training of our university students . The universities of Spain are in good positions in the world rankings. “It is important to bear in mind that it is not necessarily due to problems derived from training, but to the structure of our labor market ”, adds Luis Enrique Alonso.

Ways to find work



The Employability Observatory of the Autonomous University of Madrid states that, among its young graduates, the main way to access the first job is personal contacts , followed by job portals and training practices . Platforms such as LinkedIn, Infojobs or MiPrimerEmpleo.com long ago replaced job searches on the pages of newspapers or the delivery of CVs by hand. According to Adecco, more than 70% of job offers from companies do not even see the light of day on job search portals. This dark market of job vacancies is determined by the so-called networking .

In contrast to the university reality, in Vocational Training both at intermediate and higher level, the work centers where the training practices are carried out are the most effective labor intermediaries, since many students continue in these centers once the practices are finished, affirms the Department of Education of the Generalitat of Catalonia .

The labor insertion of many young graduates seems to be the unfinished business of the university. “The university faces a process of greater social integration, it must modernize its expectations, its missions. It should be more dynamically integrated into society. There is a certain self-absorption within the university that separates us from the social service that we are ”, points out Professor Luis Enrique Alonso.

The difficulty of the labor insertion of young people is a fish that bites its tail; companies do not hire young people due to their lack of professional experience and young people continue to train in search of improving their job prospects. This continued academic training without being accompanied by job training can be a long-term problem. “The only thing that is achieved sometimes is to accumulate credentials. Those credentials further alienate young people from the world of work because they imply higher aspirations. The issue of overqualification is one more consequence of the institutional problems of the Spanish labor market”, comments Luis Enrique Alonso.


On many occasions, students enroll in all kinds of courses, masters or postgraduate courses with the sole purpose of continuing to be linked to university or study centers, and thus be able to apply for jobs as interns . If we make a quick review of the job search portals, such as LinkedIn or Infojobs, most companies ask for students who can sign an agreement with the study centers.

This is the case of Marina , who graduated in June this year with a degree in Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations from the private university ESERP Business School. “I spent four months looking for a job and couldn't find anything. I realized that all the companies asked to sign an agreement with the universities. I, having already graduated, was not part of the university. In the end I ended up enrolling in a six-month online digital marketing course for which I paid 350 euros . Now I am working in the commercial department of Prisa, with an internship contract”.

Students enroll in all kinds of courses with the sole purpose of continuing to be linked to university or study centers and apply for jobs as interns

This hiring formula, which was proposed as a measure to improve the job placement of young people, only perpetuates the precariousness of their situation . “In the end, what we do is train ourselves more, but not because we need it, but because we have to have the excuse of studying to be able to access the only job that is offered to us. It is like paying to start working ”, comments Eduardo Magaldi , spokesman for RUGE, the youth organization of the UGT union. This leads to the overqualification discussed above.

“This overqualification generates strong frustration because what you thought was going to be your function in society is diminished . The dominant discourse was that if you did that and accumulated that education you were going to have a secure job. However, having a degree does not immediately guarantee you a job”, adds Professor Alonso.


This continuous academic training requires more time and also a greater investment of money. The poor employment situation and the problem of job placement ends up generating uneasiness among young people , as they do not see their expectations fulfilled. Clara Sanz López , Head of Vocational Training at the Ministry of Education, comments in a conversation with this magazine that “ before, going to university guaranteed you economic and social well-being, which has now been broken. In addition, the initial degree of a student will not be decisive. We live in a time of constant change, with a dynamic labor market. Many of the professions that young people will dedicate themselves to do not yet exist and what will be key in this regard will be the worker's ability to adapt and not what degree they put on their CV”. As the essayist Alvin Tofler said in his book The Shock of the Future (1970), the new dimension of education will be to teach students “ how to learn, unlearn and relearn ”.

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