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Technical education simplified to just 15 employment routes

Billed as the most significant transformation of post-16 education since A-levels introduced 70 years ago

Posted by Hannah Oakman | July 08, 2016 | Teaching

A report into technical education by an independent panel, chaired by Lord Sainsbury, has found that young people considering a technical education today must choose between more than 20,000 courses provided by 160 different organisations. A young person wanting to pursue an engineering career faces a choice of 501 different courses.

As a result, the review recommended simplifying the current system so that technical education would be provided through 15 routes, with standards set by industry professionals. Several of these routes would provide skilled recruits for the engineering profession, including engineering and manufacturing, digital, transport and logistics, and construction.

Britain has all the ingredients needed to compete with other skilled nations, but we must create a technical education system that can harness that talent – Nick Boles

In response, Skills Minister Nick Boles has today published the ‘Post-16 skills plan’, accepting every one of Lord Sainsbury’s recommendations, while setting out the government’s innovative vision for the future of technical education.

Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “Britain has all the ingredients needed to compete with other skilled nations, but we must create a technical education system that can harness that talent.

“This cannot be the government’s job alone; we must work with employers and post-16 providers to unlock the potential in this country.

“The skills plan is the next step towards that goal, building on the progress we have already made by investing in apprenticeships, and creating a skilled workforce that is the envy of every other nation. This won’t just help our young people get the best jobs but it will also boost our economy, benefiting us all.”

The Royal Academy of Engineering has welcomed the government’s new Post-16 Skills Plan. Professor Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering commented: “We have argued for many years that the qualifications system in England is too complex and difficult to navigate for students and employers. The Academy fully supports the proposed ‘routes-based’ system as a mechanism to substantially simplify the current qualifications on offer through the public purse.

“The engineering profession faces a well-documented skills shortage, which improved technical education will help in part to address.”

The CBI also responded, with Neil Carberry, CBI Director for Employment and Skills, saying: “Giving young people clarity on where technical routes can lead them and the career opportunities they open up is essential if we are going to meet future skills needs.

“It’s also promising to see the role of the employer clearly set out in this new system – business engagement will be critical to ensuring these options are relevant to companies and lead to great careers.” 

Meanwhile Maddalaine Ansell, Chief Executive of University Alliance, added: “As the Skills Plan concludes, it is essential that high quality technical and professional education has the same prestige as the world-class academic education offered by our universities.  Co-designing and co-delivering courses with employers is key to achieving this. 

“Alliance universities have a strong history of working with employers to provide both academic and technical and professional education. We also have considerable experience in helping students entering with vocational qualifications to succeed on academic courses and can help ensure the proposed bridging courses truly help people cross from one path to the other.

“Recognising that employers have already developed a wide range of technical and professional education with universities, we now call for the Government to allow the apprenticeship levy to be used to fund not only apprenticeships but other kinds of employer-sponsored courses.” 

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “This plan does not promote a superficial parity of esteem but seeks to provide a quality education which will speak for itself.

“On balance, a core academic curriculum until 16 is the right choice for the majority of students. English, maths and science are the ultimate transferable skills. But the report is right to question the validity of repeated resits of GCSEs post 16.

“These are good ideas but they need proper funding and sustained attention to work.”

The first of the new technical education routes will be made available from September 2019 and all routes will have been introduced by September 2022.



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