Thursday, 9 March 2017

Technical Education to achieve ‘Genuine Parity of Esteem’

This week’s budget makes one thing clear; technical education is beginning to move towards parity with the academic route.

The 15 new T-Levels which have been announced will begin to develop a more easily understood route into technical and vocational learning. Gone will be thousands of disparate qualifications, which few understand fully, and in their place a new streamlined qualification which is as easily understood as the A-Level benchmark. These new pathways are the beginning of an acceptance by Government that for too long, academic education has ruled the roost in the UK, with too much emphasis being placed on the traditional University education. I’ve said it before, and will say it again for clarity; I myself am a product of this higher education pathway, so understand its benefits. But despite that, it is not, and never will be, the right route for every young person.

So just why is the Government looking to shift its policy now? With the backdrop of Brexit looming, it is becoming ever-more important to ensure that we are a nation of do-ers, with productivity levels on a par with our continental cousins. The most recent data suggests that far from our academic led education system delivering greater levels of productivity, it has actually dampened our workforce. The UK’s workforce is now generating, in one hour, 18 percentage points less than the other six members of the G7.

Philip Hammond has announced a new style of FE

And the best bit about this new FE shakeup? It’s going to get funding. Where for many years, we have seen significant real-term falls in funding for our learners, this time there’s a pot of cash available to ensure that colleges can actually deliver what’s required. The Government has listened, and is investing to ensure that we are able, as a nation, to develop the skills we need for the future.

FE is delivering the skills required to improve our nation's productivity

And that’s what a high quality technical and vocational offering really does; help us future proof our economies, our communities and the people who live and work within them. Investing this cash now will ensure our businesses have the skills they need to remain competitive, which in turn will improve the prosperity within our communities. And it’s just that, which will allow every person in our society to achieve their potential, rather than the misguided belief that anyone who doesn’t achieve a University degree has ultimately failed.