The first cohort of students to take Advanced Diplomas in Engineering graduated on Friday August 20 but accolades have been modest as doubt hangs over the diploma's future.
Launched in September 2008 the Advanced Diploma in engineering aimed to provide a rigorous programme of study with strong guidance on how to apply STEM skills to modern engineering challenges. The Diploma qualification is available in a number of different subject areas and of the 594 teenagers to form the first tranche of Diploma students 146 studied engineering making it the most popular diploma.
Semta, Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies, was quick to congratulate students graduating from the diploma course however Schools Minister Nick Gibb was equivocal in his praise saying “There will be a place for the Diploma as long as there is demand for it. It is for schools, colleges and students to decide whether it is the best qualification for them. That’s why we have made it easier for schools and colleges to choose the Diplomas they think are right for their students, rather than having to offer them in every subject. We want to strengthen vocational education so we will look carefully at how these qualifications are viewed by employers and universities.”
Gibb’s reticence in singing the praises of the Diploma results reflects uncertainty from government over future funding and infrastructure support for the Diploma qualifications as policy swings more wholeheartedly behind apprenticeships as a vocational education option.
Lack of clarity over skills support structures and the details of funding are causing significant disruption to some industry skills development bodies. Sector Skills Councils, such as Cogent, have reluctantly paused work on developing the Diploma qualification and Bill Williams, CEO of CEME (Centre for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence) an Essex based charity for the support of skills development and start up technologies in the manufacturing sector, told TM that “From a skills perspective I have never known such a period of uncertainty across all agencies involved. There is lack of clarity over the longevity of many supporting organisations. The common and enduring theme from government policy over the last three years however, is that apprenticeships are where it’s at.”
Greater clarity on the future of skills infrastructure in the autumn when spending reviews and strategy for 2011-2012 will be announced. Organisations like CEME are currently taking an active role in skills policy consultation schemes designed to garner informed opinion about how best to restructure spending and skills infrastructure and provide appropriate support to industry skills development. Submissions for the consultation close on October 15. More information on how to get involved in this consultation is available at http://interactive.bis.gov.uk/comment/skills/