Skills for jobs

Posted on 13 May 2011 by The Manufacturer

Indictment of the status of vocational education in Britain and mass of youth unemployment prompt £60m of new government funding. Business welcomes government intentions.

Education Secretary, Michael Gove says current attitudes toward vocational education are failing Britain and its young people. In a presentation to the House of Commons yesterday Gove referred to the recent Wolf Report which investigated the state of education in the UK saying that its findings showed hundreds of thousands of young people are being encouraged to take easy subjects that are of little vocational value.

Gove’s comments come at the end of a week which has seen criticism from employers over the levels of basic literacy and numeracy in young employees as well as renewed focus on the issue of youth unemployment. The apparent inability of the British education system to instill basic skills and an appreciation of applied skills in today’s youth is a thorn in the side of government. Gove sees the problems arising from a system which encourages the dumbing down of vocational education because schools and colleges “are incentivised to offer lower grade qualifications which are easier to pass because they get paid on those results.” The Education Secretary added: “Students should choose the qualifications they need to succeed, not those bureaucracies deem appropriate.”

Gove suggested a number of actions which should be taken to counter this trend and improve both the quality and status of vocational skills. These proposals include:

•Incentivising young people to take the most valuable vocational qualifications pre-16

•Enabling FE lecturers and professionals to teach in schools

•Removing the requirement that all qualifications offered to 14- to 19-year-olds fit within the Qualifications and Credit Framework and ensuring that those who have not secured a good pass in English and mathematics GCSE continue to study those subjects post-16

Susan Anderson, director of education and skills at the business lobbying organisation, CBI commented on Gove’s intention following the parliamentary session. She said: “We welcome the announcement that young people who didn’t get A*-C English and Maths GCSEs will now be supported to achieve this benchmark by 19.

“These subjects are essential for work, but the latest CBI / EDI survey shows that 35% of employers are unhappy with school leavers’ numeracy and 42% with their use of English.

“Maths is particularly important so that the UK can compete and grow in a range of key industries, but currently only 15% of students study this beyond GCSE, well behind competitor nations such as France and Germany.

“All young people should do work experience and we’re concerned that the Government removing the statutory duty on schools could lead to some students missing out on this vital way of developing employability skills.”

The particular relevance of improving the employability of young people, at a time when youth unemployment is at almost one million, is compelling. Providing further input from the CBI Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, said: “We’ve been calling on successive governments to do more to tackle youth unemployment by making it easier for businesses to offer more work experience placements and apprenticeships.

In response to the announcement, also made yesterday, that government would be throwing an extra £60m at the problem of youth unemployment Hall continued: “This new funding and the promise of reduced bureaucracy should encourage even more firms to do so [establish apprenticeships and work experience programmes].”

Government have however, acknowledged that funding alone will not create an effective, robust environment in which to grow apprenticeships. At a key event next week, Business Secretary Vince Cable will be hearing from leaders in the provision of apprenticeships to discover what additional barriers to the establishment of programmes exist aside from the issue of money.

The Apprenticeship Ambition Blueprint Launch is due to take place on Wednesday 18 in the House of Lords and will be attended by sector skills council leaders, employers, training providers and apprentices across a range of sectors.