Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary

Adults will be able to access more, high-quality alternatives to university degrees under new measures to boost the nation’s skills and job prospects.

The package will help colleges and universities invest in new equipment that will support technical studies, and boost training opportunities with businesses in areas such as digital and construction.

It will also create new, shorter courses for working adults in STEM subjects like engineering and manufacturing, giving those wishing to upskill or retrain greater flexibility in how and when they study.

Boosting the uptake and quality of Higher Technical Education - technical qualifications that sit between A Levels and degrees – and supporting adults to study more flexibly throughout their lives is a key part of the Government’s landmark reforms to post-16 education and training.

A major review of Higher Technical Education revealed these qualifications can unlock the skills employers need, can lead to well paid jobs and help support the country to build back better from the pandemic.

Despite this, only 4% of young people achieve a qualification at higher technical level by the age of 25 compared to the 33% who get a degree or above.

The funding will be invested from Summer 2021 to kickstart work to ensure more Higher Technical Education is on offer across the country, providing more people with high-quality alternatives to university degrees.

The package consists of:

  • A new £18 million Growth Fund to support further and higher education providers to expand high-quality Higher Technical Education. The fund will help providers to invest in equipment and develop the business links they need to offer training that will meet growing employer demands for skills in sectors including Digital, Construction, Health and Science.
  • Up to £10 million for Institutes of Technology to develop and deliver higher technical short and modular courses in STEM disciplines like engineering, manufacturing, construction and digital. Aimed at working adults, these courses, which will be available from Autumn 2021, will be free to access and will support people to rapidly reskill or upskill to meet local economic needs.
  • £2 million to support the development and delivery of high-quality modular training focused on upskilling employees to help address future skills gaps in high value manufacturing. The High Value Manufacturing Catapult, an organisation that supports businesses to harness innovation, have been appointed to lead this exciting new project, working with Institutes of Technology.

Sector reaction

Gavin Williamson 100x100Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“Investment in higher technical skills will support more people to secure exciting and rewarding careers, fill skills gaps in our economy and help us build back better from the pandemic.

“We also want to counter the myth that a degree is the only way to a good job.

"This funding will help open up more high quality training alternatives for people, empowering them to get the skills they need to build the life they want, wherever they live.”

Stephen Evans Dec 2018 100x100Stephen Evans, CEO, Learning & Work Institute, said:

‘Higher technical skills must form part of a ladder of opportunity, so it’s good to see a focus on this. Our aim should be for more people to gain higher level skills in different ways, rather than to reduce the number of people studying to level 6.

‘That will require rebuilding the missing rungs of the ladder by increasing participation in basic skills and levels 2 and 3, so more people are ready to progress up. On top of that we will close working with employers and more significant measures to improve funding and support for higher technical education.’

Responding to the government’s announcement that multi-million-pound investment will allow more people to gain higher level technical skills, Universities UK said: “Expanding higher technical courses is a positive move which will increase choice for learners of all ages and help employers meet their skills needs as the nation looks to rebuild from the impact of COVID-19.

“Universities have been involved with developing these qualifications and many universities are ready to scale up their alternatives to the traditional three-year degree. UUK is working closely with government, employers and local partners to help make these qualifications a success.”

Barney Taylor, Managing Director, Europe at Ensono said:

“Today’s funding announcement will be a welcome boost for Higher Technical Education, ensuring more young people can benefit from the unique blend of training and industry experience provided by these courses – vital experience as they start in their career. Taking the time to build key skills in young people is of huge value to any firm, creating cohorts of talented future employees with new perspectives that will drive innovation that is essential for business growth.”

“It is excellent to see digital skills at the heart of this investment package. The pandemic has demonstrated the strength of the UK technology sector, leading the way in everything from data-driven healthcare to new frontiers in digital-first payments solutions.”

“If the UK is to keep its status as a global leader in technology, Higher Technical Education need to form one part of a broader effort on the part of government and private sector to nurture the next generation of talent. We need to build a strong ecosystem of training, work experience, and outreach that ensures opportunities in technology are open to all.”

Dr Arti Saraswat, Senior Policy Manager (Higher Education) at Association of Colleges said:

"There are many routes to a good job, and every route deserves the respect, support and funding to make it a viable option for anyone who wants to take it. We welcome the incentive for providers to deliver higher technical qualifications – as we move closer to the end of the furlough scheme, this investment in timely and helpful. But government will also need to support providers further by providing funding that goes beyond this year. There is also a need for maintenance support and student finance so that those who would benefit most from modular learning and HTQs are able to take them up."

Higher technical training is currently offered at Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) institutions, but research shows that the quality of courses on offer can be variable and it can be hard for students and employers to find the ones that are right for them.

From September 2022 the government will start rolling out newly approved Higher Technical Qualifications, starting with Digital.

Construction and Health and Science will follow in 2023 with a full suite of qualifications rolled out by 2025.

Qualifications will only be approved where they provide the skills employers need, so students and employers can be confident the courses on offer will provide the skills they need to succeed.

The Government’s network of Institutes of Technology – unique collaborations between universities, FE colleges, and leading employers – will also specialise in delivering high-quality Higher Technical Education and training in STEM subjects, such as digital, advanced manufacturing and engineering that will provide employers with the skilled workforce they need.

Higher Technical Qualifications will provide a natural progression route for young people taking new T Levels or A Levels, and adults looking to upskill or retrain, enabling them to take the next step up and gain higher technical skills in key subjects like STEM.

Following a review of the Higher Technical Education the government announced in July 2020 that that it would:

  1. Introduce newly approved Higher Technical Qualifications from September 2022 supported by a government-backed brand and quality mark – qualifications will only be approved where they provide the skills employers need, providing much needed clarity for students and employers.
  2. Work with Ofsted and the Office for Students to make sure the quality of courses is consistently high across HE and FE institutions – building on our Institutes of Technology so students and employers can be confident courses will be high quality.
  3. Work in partnership with employers and careers advisers to showcase the benefits and the wide range of opportunities that studying a higher technical qualification can open up and making sure students get the right information, advice and guidance to make informed choices.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (the Institute) will shortly announce the first successful Digital Higher Technical Qualifications.

On 5 July, the Institute will invite awarding bodies to submit Higher Technical Qualifications for approval against employer-led occupational standards in Construction, and Health & Science.  This will be followed in 2022 by Business & Administration; Education & Childcare; Engineering & Manufacturing and Legal, Finance & Accounting and the year after by Agriculture, Environmental & Animal Care; Catering & Hospitality; Creative & Design and Hair & Beauty.

Once a route has been opened for HTQ approval, there will be annual opportunities to submit new or existing qualifications for approval.

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