At City & Guilds, we have just completed a major consultation exercise talking to employers, education providers and young people about our refreshed City & Guilds TechBac® and our 14-18 offer more generally.
We are investing in the TechBac® to provide a comprehensive programme of study for young people, with vocational and academic learning as well as the core skills needed for the workplace. The TechBac® will give young people the very best chance to move onto an apprenticeship, straight into the workplace, or onto university without compromising any of the key skills and knowledge elements required for each.
I've written before about our TechBac®, so I thought that the readers of FE News would be interested to hear about what came out of the consultation, and how we are listening and being responsive to the findings. What came through loud and clear is how the existing vocational offer for 16-19 year olds fails young people on two counts. Firstly, it isn't viewed as a robust alternative to A Levels. Secondly, it doesn't provide people with the all of the necessary skills or flexible progression routes that employers require.
In particular, the consultation showed a clear appetite for better quality, longer work placements. Employers agreed that it takes at least one month for young people to get under the skin of an organisation and make a real impact. Equally, young people recognised that nowadays qualifications alone aren't enough to get work. As one employer told us, 'If a young person excelled in a project linked to my business and thrived in their work experience placement, I'd employ them. Who wouldn't?'
Interestingly, the Higher Education community was also overwhelmingly positive about the blend of technical, business and personal skills that make up the new TechBac®. Respondents agreed that there was a need for a robust programme of study to help young people become more work ready. They felt this would save universities time and enable students to progress more quickly on their courses. One institution told us: 'These proposals could enable students to learn hands-on skills in areas like engineering in Further Education, before they come to university. This would save us valuable time as we often have to develop these from scratch'.
Based on the feedback from the consultation, we've concluded that our TechBac® needs four essential ingredients:
· A new high level technical component developed with, and for industry, to give young people the qualifications to continue on to further education or into employment
· An extended project so that young people can demonstrate their skills in a real world setting
· Business and employability skills such as team work, communication and problem solving that employers say are lacking among young job seekers
· A structured work placement that lasts at least three weeks at Level 2 and four weeks at Level 3.
It's also important to say that although our TechBac® and its key components will be fully compatible with the Government's Technical Baccalaureate Measure, it will go further to provide young people with an even broader and more rounded learning experience. We believe it will do much more to help people progress in their careers and their lives.
Chris Jones is chief executive and director general of City & Guilds, the awarding body