Vocational skills at heart of UK education reform

Posted on 21 Jan 2021 by Tom Lane

Post 16 technical Education in England is set for a shake up with the publication of the governments Skills for Jobs White Paper.

Ministers today set out plans to overhaul vocational training in England to help businesses get the skills they need.

Publishing its Skills for Jobs White Paper, the Department for Education said it wanted to “put an end to the illusion that a degree is the only route to success and a good job and that further and technical education is the second-class option”.

The Skills for Jobs white paper will aim to reform post-16 technical education and training to support people to develop the skills needed to get good jobs and improve national productivity. The plans aim to give more power to the employers to get the skills they need to grow their businesses and keep pace with technological changes.

Employers will play a central role in designing almost all technical course in England by 2030 ensuring that the education and training given to students is liked to the skills need for business. A £65 million fund has been established to build new colleges and business centres, with the aim of meeting local training needs.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “These reforms are at the heart of our plans to build back better, ensuring all technical education and training is based on what employers want and need, whilst providing individuals with the training they need to get a well-paid and secure job.”

Engineer Teaching Apprentices Skills Training - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
image courtesy of Depositphotos

Other significant measures put forward in the White paper included.

  • Boosting the quality and uptake of higher technical qualifications by introducing newly approved qualifications from September 2022.
  • Changing the law so that from 2025 people can access flexible student finance to train and retrain throughout their lives.
  • Launching a nationwide recruitment campaign to get more talented individuals to teach in the FE sector.
Dr Adam Marshall, Director General, British Chambers of Commerce
Dr Adam Marshall, Director General,
British Chambers of Commerce

Commenting on the government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper, BCC Director General Adam Marshall said: “We welcome these ambitious plans to put the skills needs of businesses at the heart of the further education system. As local business leaders look to rebuild their firms and communities in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is essential to ensure that the right skills and training provision is in place to support growth.

“Chambers of Commerce can play a leading role in developing local skills plans that reflect the needs of employers in their areas, working closely with colleges, councils and other partners.

“Together, we can increase the focus on skills for the workplace – the digital, technical and broader skills that help businesses grow, succeed and create good jobs.

Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) said: “Further Education is a fundamental aspect of our education system. After numerous delays, we are very pleased that the White Paper published today places such a strong emphasis on skills and talent. Especially welcomed is clarity on how the Lifetime Skills Guarantee and Lifelong Loan Allowance will work.”

Marshall added: “Too often we see further education and higher education positioned as a trade-off. The Government wishes to rebalance technical and academic education. This means raising the bar for technical education, without lowering it for academic education. The Government’s promise to put employers ‘at the heart of the skills system’ is critical. Now more than ever, in a world still recovering from Covid-19, we need to see all educational providers and employers working together to meet the current and evolving needs of the labour market.”

Skills Training and Recruitment

Stephen Phipson, CEO of Make UK, said: “For too long our education system has not kept pace with the changes we’ve seen in the manufacturing sector as a result of digitalisation, technological advances and a changing model of work. Today’s package is an ambitious, yet measured step in putting employers back at the heart of the technical education system, realigning it to meet the growing skills gaps we face in today’s labour market.

“Manufacturers will be pleased to see the vocational and technical education system geared towards providing the critical skills the manufacturing sector needs now. But more importantly, a recognition that as we look to rebuilding our economy, meeting the skills needs of UK manufacturers tomorrow will be vital to boost productivity and power economic growth.

He concluded “At a time of considerable change for businesses already, any reform will need to be done in close consultation with the sector. Government must commit its support to a Manufacturing Skills Task Force, working with the sector to help drive a skills revolution.”