Labour announces plan for new technical degrees for future skills

University of Nottingham's Trent Building (photo courtesy of Wikicommons)

For the first time in a century there is the danger of children of the 21st century being worse of than their parents, academically, Ed Milliband will say today.

The Labour leader will make the comment as he outlines his party’s plan to introduce new technical degrees formed from insight and direction from both universities and business.

“For the first time in a century there is the real danger of our children doing worse than their parents, of the Promise of Britain being broken, and our country going into decline. We cannot afford to allow people’s talents to go undeveloped and their hopes unfulfilled,” he will say to a summit on vocational education organised by the Sutton Trust.

He will explain that the introduction of technical degrees will be Labour’s priority for the expansion of university places so that high education is no longer exclusively reserved for young people who have chosen the conventional academic route.

He will also explain how this will be delivered in partnership with employers who will help design courses and sponsor young people who have excelled in their apprenticeships – so they can continue to earn wages while developing their advanced technical or professional skills to degree level.

Other measures announced today include:

• Creating a Technical Baccalaureate for 16-19 year-olds with level 3 qualifications accredited by employers and a work placement, as well as requiring all young people to continue studying English and Maths to 18.

• Raising the quality of further education by requiring lecturers to hold teaching qualifications and turning the best FE colleges into Institutes of Technical Education.

• Improving the quality and quantity of apprenticeships by requiring them to be for Level 3 qualifications, making their provision a condition of major government contracts, and giving businesses more control over funding and design of courses in their sectors.

“For the first time, those who have excelled in vocational education and training will be able to progress further. For the first time young people will have the chance to earn while they learn at university with a degree that provides a clear route to a high skilled technical or professional career. For the first time employers will be able to people who see their long term future with the firm and then develop their specialist skills so they can succeed together,” Mr Milliband will say.

Tim Thomas, head of employment policy at EEF, said the move was a positive step in helping to “plug the skills gap” currently being experienced in the UK manufacturing sector.

“The emphasis on technical degrees and baccalaureates will help raise the profile and status of vocational and technical qualifications. While our industry needs graduates, it also needs more talented young people to see vocational-based training as an attractive alternative to academic study.

“Technical qualifications, based on a partnership between employers and institutions can help plug the skills gap and fill the pipeline of talent urgently needed by UK manufacturers.

“We are pleased to see that Labour’s plans include a commitment to give employers greater control of apprenticeship funding. This will ensure manufacturing and engineering companies can demand the exact provision they need and continue to offer what are ultimately ‘best in show’ apprenticeships.”