The Prime Minister today launched a new Green Paper called Building our Industrial Strategy. The Green Paper has a significant implications for the Further Education and Skills sector:
- Overhaul of technical education to help level the playing field by providing a credible alternative to the academic route – including £170m new Government funding for prestigious Institutes of Technology
- PM vows to tackle regional disparities in opportunity and prosperity
- Modern Industrial Strategy will help young people develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future
Prime Minister Theresa May has launched a new modern Industrial Strategy aimed at improving living standards, increasing the nation’s productivity and ensuring growth is shared across the whole UK.
The Industrial Strategy will include plans for a radical overhaul of technical education to address its historic undervaluation in the UK and provide a credible alternative to the academic route for young people who choose not to go to university.
The strategy will set out plans to enable everyone to develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future.
Prime Minister Theresa May said:
“Our modern Industrial Strategy is a critical part of our plan for post-Brexit Britain. As we leave the EU it will help us grasp the bigger prize: the chance to build that stronger, fairer Britain that stands tall in the world and is set up to succeed in the long-term. And it is a vital step towards building a country where prosperity is shared and there is genuine opportunity for all.
“Our action will help ensure young people develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future. That means boosting technical education and ensuring we extend the same opportunity and respect we give university graduates to those people who pursue technical routes.
The Green Paper will put forward proposals including:
- £170m of new capital funding to establish prestigious Institutes of Technology
Responsible for delivering higher level technical education in STEM subjects across all regions. This is part of a new system of technical education which will replace thousands of qualifications, many of which are low quality, with just 15 core technical “routes”. The routes will be designed specifically to respond to the needs of industry and will help equip learners with the skills in demand from local employers.
- Plans to use the successful free school model to expand the provision of specialist maths education across the country
Working with local partners including top university maths departments to spread new specialist “mathematics schools” building on high-performing Exeter and Kings College London Mathematics Schools
- Action to tackle shortages of STEM skills
Including by further encouraging the growth of STEM subjects in higher education and exploring options to incentivise growth in the number of STEM graduates. We will also look at how we can address regional imbalances in the number of students progressing to higher-level STEM qualifications, with Professor Sir Adrian Smith’s review due to outline proposals shortly.
- Testing ambitious new approaches to encourage lifelong learning
Particularly where industries are changing or in decline. As part of this, government will consider the role of centres of community learning and will review the option to introduce maintenance loans for higher technical education, of the kind government already supports in Higher Education.
As part of the new system of Technical Education, the Government is also exploring a new ‘UCAS-style’ way of searching and applying for courses in technical education, to give those considering the technical route clearer information and better support throughout the application process and create genuine parity of aspiration.
As well as helping to level the playing field for the half of young people who do not go to university, the plans due to be outlined in the Green Paper will also help to address regional disparities, with education and skills cited as one of the biggest determinants in the UK’s variations in productivity.
Government will also work with local areas to test new approaches to closing the skills gap, potentially including: improving pre-school education; new schemes to support the retention and attraction of graduates, and measures to increase the take up of apprenticeships
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark said:
“We are building a modern and comprehensive Industrial Strategy for the long term, which we are doing in partnership with businesses and workers across the country. We want to build on the UK’s significant strengths and excellence to shape our future economy.
“The UK has some of the best universities in the world and our schools are improving, yet for too long technical education for school leavers has been neglected - with large differences in skill levels between regions. We must improve skills and opportunities so we can close the gap between the best people, places and businesses and the rest.
“It is about making our country one of the most competitive places in the world to start and grow a business. We are inviting people throughout the UK to contribute to this work to create a high-skilled economy that works for everyone.
“The Government‘s Green Paper will set out proposals for discussion and consideration and invite views from a wide range of individuals, businesses and institutions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
What does the sector think?
Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) CEO Mark Dawe said:
“It’s very encouraging that the government sees technical education and skills as such a key component of its industrial strategy and we are pleased that while the number of apprenticeships has grown significantly over the last five years, ministers recognise that more needs to be done to drive the take-up among young people of the high quality opportunities which the apprenticeship programme offers.
“Independent training providers with their expertise and experience are ready to take the lead or be active partners in the establishment of each of the new Institutes of Technology and we look forward to working with the LEPs in advancing the government’s plans. Our training provider members work with 350,000 employers and so the links to make quick progress happen already exist. We can avoid wasting time and reinventing the wheel if the plans tap into this vast resource. Buildings are really important focal points, but we must not forget that some of the best training and development is in the workplace and not the workshop, and the Industrial Strategy must keep this at the forefront. This is about being world leaders in the development of skills with our outstanding employers in an innovative and flexible 21st century way when considering technology and resources, training and development across our workforce.
“AELP looks forward to seeing more details about the promised FE maintenance loans. As a further underpinning of the social mobility agenda, the government should also make these available for higher level apprenticeships.”
David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said:
“The Industrial Strategy green paper raises some important and longstanding skills issues, which feel even more urgent as we face up to a new position in the global economy. Our country needs highly-skilled workers across a range of industries if we are to flourish and our education system needs to support both young people and adults to gain these skills, as well as re-train throughout their careers.
“The strategy recognises that more investment is needed in further education (FE) colleges and represents ‘a major endorsement of the crucial role that FE colleges play in the economy’. For too long FE colleges have been at the end of the table in resource allocations, resulting in the startling figure in the strategy that shows a drop from 27 hours of tuition per week in schools pre-16 to only 17 hours post-16. We cannot deliver a world-class education system for young people with those hours, because we also trail other nations on the same measure. More investment is needed here.
“I am pleased that the role of colleges from level 3 through 4 and 5 to degrees has been understood and that the Institutes of Technology will build on the specialisms that exist across the college sector. We want an investment approach which supports every college to provide excellence, meet industry needs and help people move into work and progress in work. A strong and effective college is needed in every community and in every labour market.
“Our response to the green paper will be positive and seek fair funding for colleges that all want to meet the challenges set out so cogently. Fair funding for colleges requires on-going revenue to support more tuition hours, work placements, skilled FE college workforces and capital for the equipment and facilities needed to deliver technical and professional education.”
Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute said:
“Britain needs a world class skills base if it is to thrive in a new global economy. We welcome many of the UK Government's plans - including the commitment to increasing apprenticeships by 3 million, reforming technical education and a focus on lifelong learning.
“To deliver these ambitions however, we need to focus on our current workforce as well as schools. We are concerned the measures in the announcement risk willing the ends but not the means.
“We have set out clear recommendations for Theresa May’s Government on how we can create a world-leading workforce.
“It is essential to invest - these reforms need to be fully-funded to achieve a thriving economy with world class skills.”
Learning and Work Institute is calling on the Government to deliver:
* A fuller commitment to quality and accessible apprenticeships - £750m is spent on widening participation to higher education – we need a clear commitment to widening access to and quality of apprenticeships
* A focus on how reforms to technical education can work for adults as well as young people
* A more flexible approach to training and learning - not only focused on apprenticeships.
* Personal Learning Accounts to unlock investment from individuals and employers
* A doubling of investment in literacy and numeracy for adults - in addition to testing new ways of delivering support
Chris Jones, Chief Executive of the City & Guilds Group, said:
"Placing skills at the heart of the industrial strategy can only be a good thing for our economy. And there are certain measures in today’s industrial strategy that are especially welcome, such as the Ucas-style system for technical education – something we have previously called for. But the Government must tread carefully. At the moment, we are at risk of initiative overload, what with the apprenticeship levy and the 3m target, the Technical & FE Bill and the Area-Based reviews, among others. And the Government has a tendency to ignore past mistakes in policymaking by rushing policies through or not giving them time to embed.
"We also need to be careful that the Institutes of Technology don’t simply end up being a re-brand of colleges. The funding proposed is not enough to establish new providers. Yet for the Institutes to offer the very best in technical training, they need to be unique. That could mean looking at different models of governance, or collaborations between colleges, training providers and other organisations for example.
"The bottom line is, the Institutes must deliver a high-quality teaching and learning experience to boost productivity and support growth. I hope the Government takes its times, and draws on the views of others, to make sure it can deliver on its promises."