From education to employment

Ed Miliband unveils FE proposals

Labour leader Ed Miliband has unveiled plans for a new technical baccalaureate for the 50% of young people who do not go to university.

Addressing a party conference in Manchester, Miliband also promised to reform Apprenticeships to give businesses more control.

However, the plans have been described by the Conservatives as playing catch-up with their own vocational reforms.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), cautiously welcomed Miliband’s proposals for a technical baccalaureate.

“We particularly welcome his recognition that many young people do not go to university and seek other avenues,” said Doel.

“Many students who attend colleges to study vocational qualifications gain high quality positions or progress to higher education already. In order to meet Ed Miliband’s aims of building a country where vocational qualifications are not seen as second class certificates – a view we would refute – the further education sector is ideally placed and can offer substantial experience and success.

“To that end there are certain elements of this plan that need to be clarified before it becomes a defined policy – a process in which we would seek to be involved.”

On the plans to reform Apprenticeships, Doel said the Labour leader needed to elaborate more on what may at first seem an easy fix.

He explained: “We need to understand, for instance, who these employers are – are they the large employers or does this involve SMEs? If it is this wider group how are they going to control the money without re-creating a huge bureaucracy similar to that involving Training Enterprise Councils in the 1990s? If it is only large employers it doesn’t reflect where most analysts see growth coming from which is from SMEs.

“Colleges already work very closely with employers of all sizes. Almost sixty percent of employers willing to train their staff do so through colleges, and the vast majority are immensely happy with the up-skilling their workers receive. More than three-quarters of employers have said that college-leavers are better prepared for work than school-leavers.”

Natalie Thornhill

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