Pioneering reforms to boost skills and jobs

Technical education is the key to boosting skills and jobs

Landmark reforms that will transform post-16 education and training, boost skills and get more people into work, have been published this week (21 January) by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

The government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper enshrines the Prime Minister’s new Lifetime Skills Guarantee, setting out a blueprint for a post-16 education system that will ensure everyone, no matter where they live or their background, can gain the skills they need to progress in work at any stage of their lives.

The Lifetime Skills Guarantee will offer tens of thousands of adults the opportunity to retrain in later life, helping them to gain in-demand skills and open up further job opportunities. This includes:

  • The chance for adults without a full level 3 qualification (A-level equivalent) to gain one from April 2021 for free in a range of sectors including engineering, health and accountancy.
  • Skills Bootcamps - free, flexible courses of just 12-16 weeks - are giving adults the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer.
  • A Lifelong Loan Entitlement will also make it easier for adults and young people to study more flexibly, which can be used over their lifetime and for modules of a course.

The measures announced today will put an end to the illusion that a degree is the only route to success and a good job, and that further and technical education is the second-class option. Instead, they will supercharge further and technical education, realigning the whole system around the needs of employers, so that people are trained for the skills gaps that exist now, and in the future, in sectors the economy needs, including construction, digital, clean energy and manufacturing.

Higher education will continue to play a vital role in the education system, but recent figures show only 66% of working-age graduates are in high skilled employment. Furthermore, many of the skills that employers are demanding require intermediate or Higher Technical Qualifications – but 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. Evidence also shows these qualifications can lead to jobs with higher wages.

Barking & Dagenham College was selected as the lead for one of the UK’s first Institute of Technologies; the East London Institute of Technology aims to fill this gap in higher level technical education. It gives people in East London a local opportunity to learn in one of the UK’s leading technical training venues, securing a higher level qualification which will ultimately lead them to a better job.

This new, clever collaboration between a college, university and industry partners allows people to progress either to an apprenticeship, a degree or progress to a higher qualification somewhere in the middle of A-levels/BTECs and a degree.

yvonneYvonne Kelly Principal and CEO of Barking & Dagenham College and the East London Institute of Technology explains:

“Over recent decades, the take up of higher technical qualifications has decreased markedly, leaving a ‘missing middle’*. In the 1960s around two thirds of those studying higher education were studying at a level below a bachelor’s degree, the ‘middle’ between A-levels/their equivalent and degree-level. This plummeted to a quarter by the mid-1990s.

The government announcement today makes it crystal clear that high quality technical education is not simply a viable alternative to an academic study route, but a brilliant one; a route that will give people the skills that employers desperately need, leading to highly paid employment that will boost the UK economy.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“Our Lifetime Skills Guarantee means that everyone will be given the chance to get the skills they need, right from the very start of their career.

“In the years ahead, the reforms we have announced today will deliver high quality technical education across the country – and help people retrain and secure better paid jobs.

“That way when we have beaten Covid-19 we can put rocket boosters under our recovery and Build Back Better.”

 Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“Our reforms to post-16 education will focus on the skills people and business need for our economy to grow.  As we recover from the pandemic, our Lifetime Skills Guarantee will ensure everyone has the confidence and opportunity to gain the skills they need to progress at any stage of their lives.

“These reforms are at the heart of our plans to build back better, ensuring all technical education and training is based on what employers want and need, whilst providing individuals with the training they need to get a well-paid and secure job, no matter where they live, and in the sectors that are critical to our future economic success.”

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