In response to the Chancellor’s post-16 years technical education reforms, backed by over £500 million per year, to be announced at the March 2017 Budget

Alice Barnard, CEO, Edge said:

‘Edge welcomes the Government’s commitment to investing in technical education, but young people do not suddenly develop their interests and aptitudes when they reach 16. Practical and creative skills need to be embedded in the school curriculum for all children right from the start. It’s ironic that the Chancellor wants ‘a genuine parity of esteem between the academic and technical routes to employment’ and yet his colleague Nick Gibb holds up the narrowly academic EBacc suite of subjects as the singular measure of achievement.

‘There is a disconnect between the Government’s admirable ambitions to deliver quality technical pathways and the reality of a Victorian curriculum and Nick Gibb’s backward-looking aspirations. Until this is addressed, the funds announced by the Chancellor will dissipate into yet another half-hearted attempt to resolve the growing skills gap in the UK.’

Ruth Gilbert, CEO, Career Colleges Trust said:

"It is encouraging to see that the need for additional funding for technical education has been recognised.

Our nation needs to build a ‘high skilled economy that works for everyone’ but if we want to achieve this, we must not waste more time and resources by re-inventing the wheel.

It is crucial that this newly announced investment is tied together with the Government’s £170m commitment to the creation of new institutes of technology and other reforms set out in its Building our Industrial Strategy Green Paper.

Technical Education reforms and the linked investment is based on the concept of employer-led skills based-education. This is the right approach and is being taken to ensure young people are well trained for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Interestingly, this employer-centric approach is exactly what the Career Colleges Trust has been providing for the last three years. We already offer employer-designed pathways in a number of industries including engineering, digital technology, healthcare, hospitality and a wide range of STEM-linked professional services.

Our 12 Career Colleges highlight not only the benefits that come from this pioneering approach to education , but they demonstrate exactly what the Technical Educational reforms are suggesting – a specialist technical route, together with a common core of English, maths and digital skills.

These are technical routes, focused towards skilled occupations and are, undoubtedly, our key to filling the growing skills gaps across so many industries.

We have employer-backing from leading businesses including Accenture, Ford, Siemens, NHS Trusts, Amazon and many more – making it clear that support from industry is absolutely forthcoming. However, this needs to be nurtured and developed further – and supported more widely within the education sector.

As all of us working in FE know, ‘revolutions’ in the form of policy / funding / pilots etc are commonplace – so perhaps the £500m announcement is nothing new.

However, if this new funding boost is directed at a much longer-term strategy, our young people and our economy are set to benefit hugely, both now and in the future."

Mark Dawe, Chief Executive, Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said:

‘The increased investment in technical skills for a post-Brexit Britain is welcome.  Combined with apprenticeships, this will have a real impact.

‘The job is to get implementation right and make sure there is equal access for all - learners, employers, communities - and there are no weak rungs on the government’s desired ‘ladder of opportunity’, especially the lower ones.

‘We want to see careful use of the money to generate the best outcomes for learners and employers , and stop haemorrhaging scarce resource trying to prop up 20th century delivery models.

‘It is also vital that 16 to 18 year olds retain a genuine choice between a high quality work based learning route such as an apprenticeship and a classroom option.  Investment in apprenticeships for this age group with opportunities available in businesses of all sizes over the long term should be an important element of the government’s social mobility agenda.’

‘We welcome the announcement on maintenance loans which we hope also offer the first step for those on apprenticeships to enable them to pursue the opportunity they want no matter where in the country.’ 

Michael Mercieca, Chief Executive, Young Enterprise said:
“For too long rigid education structures have meant that many young people have been poorly equipped to pursue their passion for a career in technical industries.  
These long overdue proposals will finally enable the next generation to fully benefit from rigorous, tailored technical courses and help rebalance the UK’s skills pipeline.
It’s also time to recognise that academia alone is not enough to produce the diverse, highly skilled workforce of the future. We need to foster a culture of entrepreneurialism in schools, invest in employability skills and give young people the tools and confidence they need to reach their full potential.”

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive at Learning and Work Institute said:

“We are pleased the Chancellor has recognised the need for additional funding for technical education. This will help increase the number of contact hours for 16-19 year olds to better match the best in the world, something Learning and Work Institute has argued for. This should help better prepare young people for our global future. It is a step change we need for post-Brexit Britain to succeed and thrive.

“The next step is providing the investment needed to help Britain’s working age population meet the challenges facing it. An ageing population, longer working lives and poor productivity require a thriving and dynamic adult education system, yet we now have 1 million fewer adults in learning than in 2010.

“The announcement of a new £40 million fund to test new approaches to lifelong learning shows that the government recognises that retraining and upskilling is essential throughout people’s working lives. Learning and Work’s proposals for Personal Learning Accounts would provide people with the means and incentives to invest in their future alongside employers and the State. ”

Paul Eeles, Chair of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB), said:

"We welcome the Chancellor's positive move to invest more in technical education for young people. The increased investment will allow for more contact hours and will help to drive up standards in Britain.

"Ensuring each Technical Route is supported by robust qualifications, developed and delivered with employers, will be vital to raising productivity.  

"The government must now look to address Britain's ageing workforce, and invest accordingly to ensure older workers are provided with the opportunity to refresh and update their skills to remain competitive in the labour market."

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:

“Businesses are delighted by the Government’s announcements, which they and the CBI have long been calling for. Increasing the number of teaching hours for technical subjects is fundamental to delivering world class training for our young people in every part of the UK.

“There has never been a more important time to address the UK’s skills shortages. Investment in skills by employers and the Government, working together in partnership, are the key to giving young people the opportunities they need to succeed.

“And with the majority of people who will be working in 2030 already in the workforce now, the proposed focus on adult skills provision will put this type of training on the right path to major and necessary improvement.  This will be very important in the face of fast-changing economics and technology.”

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said:

“We are delighted that the Chancellor has recognised what the Association of Colleges (AoC) has been saying about the need to invest more in technical education for both young people and adults. For too long, technical skills and education have been overlooked when investment in education is being considered; this announcement will make a significant and positive difference.

“This investment is a vote of confidence in colleges that are ready to work with employers to co-design the new routes, deliver the 900 hours per year and help more young people make a smooth and successful transition to work and to higher level learning. This signals a step-change in thinking, backed by investment in technical education for young people which will put us on a par with our international competitors.

“We know that many young people become motivated by experiencing the world of work, so the funding to support work placements is critical to the success of this investment. We will be working hard with our partners to secure the 180,000 work placements of one to three months which are needed to ensure that technical education is truly occupation focused.

“The Chancellor is right to highlight the need to improve productivity, address regional inequalities and help adults re-train and learn new skills. The extension of maintenance loans to adults on pre-degree part-time skills courses is essential to widen access and we look forward to helping the Government design and deliver the pilots for lifelong learning.

“Post-Brexit Britain will need more self-sufficiency in developing skills and people will need the confidence, support and opportunities to adapt and change over 50+ year careers. This announcement is a good down-payment to help develop a new and better system over the next decade. We will be working with the Government to help design that system and implement the changes needed.”


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