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The TechBac is back

The Government recently announced plans for its Technical Baccalaureate Measure. Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock promised it will ‘[give] vocational education the high status it deserves – putting it on a par with the academic route’.

The announcement shows that we’re moving beyond the obsession with increasing university places to a much needed focus on developing the skills our economy needs to grow. This is a positive sign. However, we believe the Government can be more ambitious.

Firstly, the Government’s Baccalaureate Measure does not provide a clear, accessible progression route for students. For a start, it’s a performance table measure, rather than a qualification, potentially limiting its worth amongst employers. But more worryingly, it has only been proposed for Level 3. In my view, this is a missed opportunity

That’s why City & Guilds is refreshing its own TechBac(r) qualification for both Level 2 and Level 3. Through this, we can carve out a clear pathway for young people, starting at 14 and taking them through to the time they leave full-time education.

Secondly, whilst we agree that Maths should be integral to the Technical Baccalaureate Measure, it should not be a separate qualification. Maths is best taught when it is integrated, highly-contextualised and relevant to employer needs -and we have been keeping this in mind as we develop City & Guilds’ TechBac(r) qualification. We know from our own research that young people want to be taught Maths that is relevant to the real world and employers want young people who can apply maths in their jobs from day one. We cannot ignore the needs of employers and young people.

Finally, the Government must directly link its Technical Baccalaureate Measure with the requirements of employers. As the recent CBI Education and Skills survey showed, young people applying for jobs often present a raft of qualifications and yet lack the underlying skills that employers desperately need. We clearly need to address the disconnect that currently exists between business and education.

This is why we would like to see a much greater emphasis on work experience as part of the Technical Baccalaureate Measure. This would provide opportunities for young people to learn ‘on the job’ about the importance of time management, team work, project management, communication and numeracy skills. At the same time, they would be given the chance to develop their CVs and gain insight into the various career paths open to them.

City & Guilds’ refreshed TechBac(r) qualification is being developed in consultation with employers, training providers and young people. It is intended to set young people on the path for a successful career, whether they want to move onto an apprenticeship, university or straight into employment.

The latest bleak youth unemployment figures should act as a wake-up call to Government. With almost 1 million 16 -24 year olds currently unemployed, the time has come for an ambitious approach to vocational qualifications that equips learners with the skills they need to make the transition into the workplace. It’s what young people deserve, what employers need, and what will benefit UK plc and our future growth.

Chris Jones is chief executive and director general of City & Guilds, the awarding body

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