Technical Education in the UK: Problems, opportunities and possible solutions

Posted on 24 Sep 2019 by Jonny Williamson

At every level, from STEM education and apprenticeships, through to adult learning and worker upskilling, quality and quantity are deteriorating. So, how do we pull ourselves out of the collective nosedive we’re in?

Throughout September, The Manufacturer released a series of features, insights and critiques on the current state of technical education in the UK.

The series reveals not only what businesses are demanding of the education system today, but their skill and labour requirements for years – even decades – to come, and suggests ways of stimulating an adequate supply of talent that is fit for the future.

Our series highlights the good, the bad and the downright ugly, and was published with an unprecedented  level of exposure across our printed publication, our digital platform and our multitude of social media channels. And rightly so.

Political uncertainty, economic downturns, government initiatives and a myriad of other business influences come and go, but skills – or a lack thereof – has been omnipresent across many of our lifetimes.

It’s certainly a challenge worth overcoming. A multi-skilled, adaptable, technologically-savvy workforce could be the greatest asset UK manufacturing has at its disposal.

Alternatively, an enduring lack of appropriate talent could be the anchor weighing around the sector’s neck, allowing other nations to gain precious ground in the global trade race. Something to ponder as we head into the next decade…

Challenges facing the UK:

Skills and training: We’re in a mess. How do we get out of it?

Skills training in England* is in crisis, from apprenticeships through to adult learning. At every level, quality and quantity are deteriorating and the chances of pulling out of the nosedive we’re in are bleak.

Why England consistently get skills training and education wrong

Everything to do with skills and training depends on the relationship between employers and government, and where the balance of power and influence sits between them. In England, it is tilted very much towards government, as Professor Ewart Keep explains.

Technical education failings: the view from Whitehall

While employers must share some of the responsibility for problems with technical training, we have laid much of the blame at the door of government.

Jon Yates – a past special adviser at the Department for Education (DfE) – explains why technical education receives so little attention from Whitehall.

The Apprenticeship Levy: an exercise in failure

As part of a series of articles on some of the many problems – and highlights – of the skills and training system in the UK, we explore the serious flaws in a key plank of government skills policy.

Children’s interest in STEM subjects in decline

Children’s interest in Science is down 10% among 9-12 year olds, down 12% in Design and Technology and 14% in ICT/Computing over the past four years, shock new research has revealed.

What are the digital skills businesses most lack?

A UK-wide survey of 500 senior business figures (chief technology officers, HR directors, HR managers) has identified the digital skills they believe their organisations are most ‘lacking’.

We need to equip workers with a broader range of skills

The Manufacturer explores the ‘Skills & Training’ section of the latest Annual Manufacturing Report – the most pressing item on most manufacturers’ agenda.

New approaches and industry-led solutions:

Our current approach to skills isn’t good enough for today, let alone tomorrow

To stimulate an adequate supply of trained engineers into industry, we need to radically change the way we teach, train and develop people at every stage of their lives.

A new study proposes such a vision and offers a roadmap for how to get there. Jonny Williamson reports.

Inspiring the manufacturing professionals of the future?

UK manufacturers must help inspire the next generation of workers by making careers in the sector as appealing and rewarding as possible, and investing in a positive culture and in people development.

Angela Chidley, head of talent and organisational development at  leading glass manufacturer Encirc, discusses how.

Nurturing the next generation of makers and innovators

Inspiring a love of learning, exploring, creating and innovation in young children is the best way to encourage and develop the next generation of manufacturers and engineers, according to Dr. Susan Scurlock MBE, and CEO of educational body Primary Engineers.

An industry-led solution to this skills gap

Law firm FBC Manby Bowdler is supporting the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology (MCMT) and giving young people practical manufacturing training. Sales director Neil Lloyd explains why.

Training opportunities offer crucial made-to-measure career development

Keith Bevan, Head of Manufacturing and Training at the National Physical Laboratory, reveals how NPL provides training and upskilling opportunities, making lifelong learning an indispensable part of the UK’s industrial and manufacturing sectors.