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Post-16 Skills Plan published by Government

19 June 2019

Commenting on the publication of the Report of the Independent Panel on Technical Education and the launch of the Government’s Post-16 Skills Plan, Martin Doel, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “Technical education has for too long been regarded as a poor cousin of academic study. The Government’s Post-16 Skills Plan provides a welcome roadmap to redressing this longstanding anomaly. The Plan rightly sees colleges being at the heart of the reforms with the new qualifications providing them with a cornerstone to build distinctive courses that meet the needs of employers, students and the economy. “There is still much detail to be worked through, however, and we look forward to working with the Government and the new Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to develop the new system most effectively. “A skilled workforce engendered by engaged employers and supported by colleges will be the backbone of this country’s future economic success.” Further comments “Our education and training system needs to ensure that people leave highly skilled for roles across our economy in order for the UK to compete on a global scale. “The Government’s Post-16 Skills Plan brings welcome clarity of the routes, both academic and technical, that will lead people successfully towards their chosen careers. The introduction of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education as a sole gatekeeper of standards will help to regulate the quality of provision. It will also reinforce the distinctiveness of technical education and the characteristics required to ensure that it is world class. These differ from the academic route and require training providers to have the requisite expertise, facilities and links with employers, characteristics which are at the core of our colleges. “This is an ambitious plan rightly to be introduced over a number of years. Our colleges who already educate and train over 3 million people will be at the forefront of driving this forward and they must retain their autonomy to decide on the appropriate training offer for their local community. However, if we truly want a world class system our colleges will need the additional funding to provide world class resources. The plan’s provision for everyone to have work experience alone would cost hundreds of millions of pounds and require much input from employers nationwide to be a success. We therefore welcome the Government's acceptance of the need to review the level of funding for college-based technical education and the Sainsbury Panel's specific suggestion that the intended work placements should receive additional funding. Likewise, the acknowledgement that some students from age 16 may need to complete a designed three year journey to achieve technical proficiency is long overdue and very welcome. “There are, nonetheless, still some important detailed questions to be addressed including the place of key occupations within the 15 routes where the creative arts and sport appear to be underrepresented, despite the fact that these are key areas of growth within the economy underpinned by significant technical knowledge and skills. The intended review of 'applied general qualifications' may take into account these qualifications but we must not lose sight, in this further work, of the breadth of what constitutes technical education in a modern economy. “Finally, the Government won’t be able to change the preconceived ideas of the public about the value of technical education versus academic overnight. The emphasis on a general academic curriculum in schools means that comprehensive careers information, advice and guidance are absolutely imperative to ensure awareness of all the options; a task that should be made more achievable by the identification of the 15 broad routes. The Government will need, however, to put resources behind communicating these recommendations to parents, young people and employers if the reforms are going to be a success. “In the face of uncertain times ahead, we strongly urge the Government to commit to seeing these reforms through and making the required resources available. A skilled workforce engendered by engaged employers and supported by colleges will be the backbone of this country’s future economic success.”