From education to employment

New Industrial Strategy. Details on ‘parity’ of systems, more money to attract under represented learners, T Levels and Retaining Scheme

The Government’s published a new 131 page Industrial Strategy White Paper today outlining their plans to increase productivity in the UK. The Industrial Strategy is based on five main themes or foundations of productivity: Ideas, People, Infrastructure, Business Environment and Places.  Skills is a huge part of the industrial strategy (especially in the ‘people section’ of the report) and has some really interesting sections about giving Technical and Academic levels the same ‘parity’, additional monies to help bring disadvantaged and under represented groups into Apprenticeships, more emphasis on careers advice, 3 Million Apprenticeship starts by 2020 is still mentioned, which is encouraging and the £64 Million National Retraining Scheme is explained in a little more detail.

5 industrial strategy

The report says under the ‘People section’: ” We will put technical education on the same footing as our academic system, with apprenticeships and qualifications such as T levels. We will continue to support teaching in our schools, flexible career learning and other measures to transform people’s life chances.”

At last is the Government listening, with the technical and academic route given the same importance? There was more details on T-Levels: “New T levels will be backed by over £500m annually by the time the programme is rolled out fully. This will ensure we can increase by over 50 per cent the number of hours training for 16-19 year-old T level students, including a high-quality work placement – putting our technical education system on a par with the best in the world. We will also update school and college performance measures to ensure that students can make an informed choice between technical or academic education in time for the introduction of the first T levels, recognising them as equally valued routes”.

Encouragingly the £20 Million investment in T-levels for colleges is also explained in a little more detail: “We will also invest up to £20m between 2018/19 and 2019/20 to help further education colleges develop the skills of their staff to deliver the new technical qualifications. We will also host a major Skills Summit with leading employers and publish a public consultation on the detailed design and delivery of T levels before the end of the year.

On the National Retraining Scheme:

The report states: “The National Retraining Scheme will be informed by £40m announced in the Spring Budget to test innovative approaches to helping adults up-skill and re-skill. The pilots will help us learn more about how to support and incentivise adults to learn skills that will help them, their local economies and national productivity. We have already launched a Flexible Learning Fund, making available up to £10m to support projects that design and test flexible, accessible ways of delivering learning to working adults with low or intermediate skills. Further pilots testing other barriers to adults’ learning will be announced in due course. Starting next year, the National Retraining Scheme will initially target skills shortages in key sectors, ensuring that we can develop much-needed digital and construction skills. A total of £30m will be invested to test the use of artificial intelligence and innovative education technology (edtech) in online digital skills courses so that students can benefit from this emerging technology. will provide £34m to expand innovative construction training programmes across the country, including a programme in the West Midlands, focused on supporting the country’s housing needs and building upon existing good practice. Action on construction and digital is just the first step. Further ahead, and supported by the National Retraining Partnership, we will be engaging with sectors and Skills Advisory Panels in England to develop future policy. We will also continue to support Unionlearn, an organisation of the Trades Union Congress, to help embed a culture of learning throughout working lives. The government must also do more to help people of all ages navigate our labour market. People need access to the information, advice and guidance that will help them make choices as they progress through the education system and their careers.”

Careers Advice and Guidance:

The report states: “We will publish a comprehensive careers strategy shortly that will set out plans to improve the quality and coverage of careers advice for people of all ages. The strategy will build on the current work of the Careers Enterprise Company and employers to increase encounters between businesses and young people and the National Careers Service, to improve the quality and coverage of careers advice in schools and colleges, and give people the information they need to access training throughout their working lives. It will be based on evidence, both in this country and internationally, which identifies the most effective practices to support people of all ages and in all areas, including those who are hardest to reach.”

£60 Million available to how bring ‘hard to reach’ or under-represented groups into Apprenticeships

According to the report: “We are making over £60m available to support apprenticeship take up by young people and poorer families from disadvantaged areas and setting ambitious goals to increase the proportion of apprenticeships started by people of black and minority ethnic backgrounds or with a learning difficulty and/or disability by 20 per cent by 2020. We also need to do more to address the underrepresentation of other groups in our labour market and support employees to stay in work. Our economy is missing out on the untapped potential this represents for employers. Work keeps people healthy, mentally and physically. It enables people to be economically independent, and gives more choices and opportunities to fulfil other ambitions in life. The McGregor-Smith Review put the potential benefit to the UK economy from full representation of black and minority ethnic workers, through improved participation and progression, at £24bn a year. Organisations with the highest levels of gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to outperform their rivals, yet female employment continues to be below that of men and the difference in the amount of years women and men spend in full time work is the biggest driver of the 18 per cent gender pay gap. In mid-2017, just under half of working-age disabled people were in employment, compared with 81 per cent of working-age non-disabled people. OECD projections show that by 2030, if the share of women working reached the same level as for men, annual growth rates in GDP per capita would rise by 0.5 percentage points in the UK. The boost to economic growth would be even higher if women’s working hours increased too. Businesses that have diverse, inclusive workplaces recognise this brings improved productivity. For example, offering flexible working can enable employers to reach a wider talent pool, both male and female, including returners, older workers and people with disabilities. Creating a workplace which is truly flexible can improve productivity.

Wow, has the Government been listening about Careers Advice and Guidance, parity of systems, lifelong learning? Goodness, I might have to lay down!

So, loads here.

What does the sector think about the new Industrial Strategy? 

david hughes 100 x100David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said:

“It is right that the Government places skills at the forefront of the Industrial Strategy. Following our decision to leave the European Union, the economic success of our country depends on using the talents and abilities of all our people – colleges are central to this. As a country, we need to ensure that young people and adults have skills which will allow them to improve productivity, cope with enormous technological change and deal with the uncertainties of modern life.

“Placing more of an emphasis on skills and technical levels will help in addressing improved productivity, better social mobility and overcoming regional disparities. The Government is right to see the Industrial Strategy as a long term project which requires culture change and significant investment to properly improve the skills system. The new strategy should help deliver a more joined-up approach from Government, bringing together investment and infrastructure that can ensure we increase productivity and make the most of the untapped potential in the UK.

“We welcome the government’s aim to develop a technical education system that rivials others in the world. Visitors from other governments to UK colleges are often impressed by their capability so there are firm foundations for this.

“The strategy confirms a number of new programmes which were announced in last week’s Budget and which will take forward work on maths, digital and construction skill‎s. These are a good start and a helpful statement of intent from Government but more will need to be done to ensure the different initiatives work well together and to provide the predictability that allows colleges to make their own investments in staff and facilities.”

chris jones 100x107Chris Jones, Chief Executive of the City & Guilds Group, said:

‘I’m pleased to see the strategy reiterate the focus on building Britain’s STEM skills base. Skills shortages in this area are a key concern, making this a vital investment for the future of Britain’s industries. However, it is essential that STEM is not expanded at the detriment of skills in other key areas. Britain’s businesses need employees with a broad range of skills.

“It is also good to see the strategy consider how to boost higher level technical education, by promising a review of what’s currently on offer and a much needed focus on this long-neglected area of education. While the new T-Levels will provide a good starting point, there is much more than can be done to ensure Britain has a world-class technical education offer and we look forward to the opportunity to work more closely with government, employers and the wider FE sector over the coming years to help make that dream a reality.

“We are also excited about the possibilities that the Institutes of Technology bring and believe the Government has the chance to bring about real and lasting impact if they bold and use them to drive quality and innovation. To ensure they reach their full potential it’s important that Government consider the views and experience of those in the FE sector, businesses and training providers.

“I was disappointed to see only limited focus on retraining the existing workforce. The City & Guilds Group believe that better skills utilisation is key to improving lagging productivity in the UK. The announcement in last week’s Budget, repeated here, of a new National Retraining Scheme, is a positive step. But it is only the tip of the iceberg. It is not enough to ensure those entering the workforce have the right skills. This must happen alongside a concerted effort to upskill those already in employment.”

MarkDawe 100x100Mark Dawe, Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) comments: 

“The industrial strategy is a vital piece in the jigsaw of future UK prosperity. Without the availability of a skilled workforce it will fall at the first hurdle – therefore proper investment and implementation of the current skills policies combined with further targeted investment must remain a government priority”


Judith Doyle 100x100Judith Doyle, Principal and CEO of Gateshead College, said:

“We welcome the Government’s focus on skills and technical education, however, we need a dramatic change in the way that technical education is viewed in this country. For too long the technical route has been seen as the inferior, poorer sibling to academia. Technical courses have been systematically undervalued, parents have pushed their children into A Levels when they are not always the best option, and funding for Further Education colleges – which deliver the majority of the technical courses in the UK – remains underfunded compared to sixth-form colleges.

“Today’s announcement must be the start of a revolution. In addition to more investment in skills we need to radically recast technical education so that the next generation of young people see it as a valuable and exciting option. We applaud the Government’s ambitious target for 3m apprenticeship starts by 2020 but it’s not just about making sure employers take up these opportunities. We need to make sure young people understand the benefits that an apprenticeship can deliver – offering a high quality education and experience on the job as well as the prospect of well paid work in often cutting edge industries.

“That’s why we also need bold, fresh thinking when it comes to the careers advice that students are offered. Careers advice offered to sixteen year-olds is often very limited and beset with prejudice about the technical route. Further Education colleges are too often kept away from school students and prevented from talking to them about their technical education options. It’s no wonder 30% of A Level courses are never completed. So, the Government’s ambitious goals will only be realised when the UK’s main providers of technical education – the Further Education colleges – are given full access to school students at 16 and when both parents and teachers fully embrace all of the options available at 16.”

Design Council response to the governments Industrial Strategy announcement:

“The Industrial Strategy published by the government today made clear its commitment to improve productivity and create better, high-paying jobs across the country. We particularly welcome the government’s recognition of design and creative industries to the future economy, identified funding to microelectronic design and immersive technology and planned investment in adult skills with the announcement of a National Retraining Scheme.

“The government’s five challenges broadly match those set out by the Design Council in our response to the Green Paper and the ambition to create conditions for growth by investing in places, industry, and skills across the country is recognised.

“However, whilst we broadly support the ambition of the strategy we remain concerned that it did not take the opportunity to incorporate design into key announcements on skills and innovation. It was disappointing to see that design is not incorporated into STEM subjects or into the R&D tax system as we had pressed for in our response to the Green Paper.

“We know that design already contributes £71.7bn to the UK economy, operating across an array of key sectors – from banking to aerospace.

“Next week we publish research that will show design skills used by people across the economy contribute more than double the £71.7bn figure. In addition, people using these skills are significantly more productive than average. To ignore this compelling case for design will miss a vital opportunity to build an economy fit for the future.

“It is puzzling that whilst the value of maths is recognised in a future education system, design and technology are not? Design and technology are as important to the fourth industrial revolution as maths and other core STEM subjects. Businesses and innovators recognise this across the country and the omission of design skills from the strategy will have far-reaching consequences for long-term growth. Already a design skills shortage costs the UK economy over £6bn a year. If we do not change focus, then this skills shortage will only continue.

“We have the talent, knowledge, and ability to provide the future skills our economy needs. But we must take action – now – to incorporate these into our education system so we realise the benefit to business and industry. If we do not we will miss the opportunity to be the high value, innovation-led economy that the industrial strategy aims for the UK to be.

“We hope the government will listen to the building evidence for design skills and take the necessary steps needed to incorporate design into STEM subjects.

“We look forward to working with them to make this change happen.”

Dr Colin Brown, Director of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy:

“The Government’s Industrial Strategy makes some positive recommendations, with regards to investing in skills and innovation in particular.

“Government needs now to show joined up thinking on how we can deliver on these ambitions. While it is welcome that Government is providing £406 million to help address the shortage of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills, it is vital that this funding is made in the right places. Currently few schools are integrating engineering into their teaching and the wider school culture, which is leading to students developing a vague and incoherent understanding of the profession, its career opportunities and what it does for society. With Brexit on the horizon and the ticking time-bomb of the retiring baby-boomer generation of engineers, it has never been more important to think seriously about how to find, inspire and nurture the engineers of tomorrow ― how we frame engineering in mainstream school education rather than simply relying on serendipity and volunteerism to inspire the next generation.”

Professor Janet Beer, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, said:

“Universities are key to addressing the big challenges mentioned in the industrial strategy. UK universities are producing world-leading research and innovation and are educating the future workforce. At the local and regional level, universities support growth by providing and creating jobs. Internationally, they attract investment and talent. This will be particularly important as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

“We have welcomed the UK government’s commitment to increase investment in R&D funding, and today’s announcement of increased support for quality-related research is good news. The commitment to increase investment in the Higher Education Innovation Fund is also to be welcomed. Long term, the UK must continue to move closer towards a target of investing 3% of GDP in R&D, to ensure we do not fall behind our international competitors. The White Paper’s recognition of recruiting the world’s best talent must also be linked to an immigration policy that welcomes and encourages highly skilled, international talent to choose the UK.”

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