Industry ‘surprised’ as Engineering Diploma earmarked for downgrade

Posted on 25 Jan 2012 by Tim Brown

Senior industry chiefs have reacted with ‘surprise’at the Government’s plans to downgrade the new Engineering Diploma for 14 to 19 year-olds from its current value of five GCSEs to one, as reported in The Daily Telegraph.

According to the article, such a move is viewed as undermining the efforts to develop a future pipeline of apprentices, technicians and engineers.

David Bell, JCB’s chief development officer, told the Daily Express that the move would compound the chronic lack of qualified technicians. “The diploma takes a lot more time than one GCSE and the amount of work is equivalent to five subjects. A lot is said about stem subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – but you only get the S and M [science and maths] parts taken seriously as schools are dropping design and technology because they don’t count towards how the school is graded.”

As part of a wide-ranging review into vocational education, the engineering qualification, developed by JCB and Rolls-Royce and launched in 2008, is set to have its quality status removed.

The plans to downgrade the diploma follow the March 2011 ‘Review of Vocational Training’ report by Professor Alison Wolf. The report into skills-based education for 14 to 19 year-olds in England warned as many as 400,000 students a year are studying worthless qualifications.

The Telegraph reported that the Government has not listened to repeated attempts by the engineering world to protect the new diploma, seen as “robust and attractive” in the industry to addressing skills gaps in the UK.

A Department for Education spokesman said the Government was determined to deliver education and training that met the needs of employers. “That is why we have vastly expanded the number of University Technical Colleges and why we are reforming the vocational qualification system,” he said.