From education to employment

Report Shows Continuing Rise in Education Levels as UK Chases Leading OECD Countries

New figures published in a report on Thursday suggest that Great Britain is quickly catching up with other countries when it comes to providing young people and adults with key skills.

The Government has met targets for tackling skills shortages early- a sign that more people than ever are staying in education for longer and achieving good qualifications. The figures for England state that 21,000 19-year-olds achieved Level 2 qualifications- the equivalent of five good GCSEs- in 2005, signalling a 3% increase on the previous year.

That puts the Government a year ahead of schedule for its Public Service Agreement (PSA) target. And it doesn”t stop there, with the report showing that 464,000 more adults also attained Level 2 qualifications than in 2004. This means that the Government is on course to meet the target of 1 million adults achieving level 2 qualifications by 2006, with an increase of over 841,000 since the Autumn of 2002.

Findings Welcomed

Furthermore, there has been a 3.5% rise in the number of young people earning Level 3 qualifications since 2004, equating to 46% of young people in England achieving the equivalent of 2 A-Levels. Over 500,000 National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) were handed out in 2005 (more than in any other year), taking the total number of NVQs and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) awarded to 5.5 million since their introduction.

Skills Minister Phil Hope MP has welcomed the findings and believes that the signs are very encouraging. He says the figures demonstrate that the right progress is being made to improve skill levels in this country, saying: “The increased support being given to students by schools, colleges and personal advisers is helping young people make the education choices that are right for them. The growth in Level 2 qualifications shows that more young people recognise the importance of staying in education and achieving.”

More Hard Work Ahead

Whilst the new figures show that education in the UK is getting back on track, the hard work is just beginning and much more must be done to raise the standard of skills within the UK if it is to compete with other countries across the globe. The PSA targets a further 2% rise between 2006 and 2008 and Phil Hope says that the Government cannot get complacent, saying: “We know there is more to do and our 14-19 reforms will ensure that we can develop an education system where all young people can be motivated to learn, to progress in education and enter the workplace.”

As well as improving secondary education, more work is being done to help adults in the UK to get the qualifications they require. It is hoped that by 2010, the number of adults in the workforce who lack NVQ2 or equivalent qualifications will be reduced by at least 40%. Phil Hope offers his conclusion: “We will continue to ensure all adults have the skills they need for work. We still lag behind countries in our skill levels, but these figures show a welcome rise in attainment. We need to build on this progress to secure the training which adults and employers need to succeed.”

There is certainly a long way to go to get the standard of education in Great Britain back to where it belongs, but at least for now it seems to be heading in the right direction.

Joel Goldman

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