Government to invest £500m a year and simplify technical training


Employers have welcomed the government’s plans to radically overhaul technical education, which are being hailed as the biggest shake-up in post-16 education in more than 70 years.

In an announcement issued ahead of this week’s Budget, the government said it planned to invest £500m a year into ‘T-levels - technical training for 16-19-year-olds in sectors including construction and engineering.

The government said it would ramp up trainingvia technical routes to 900 hours - a 50% increase - and each course would offer a “high quality work placement”.

It also plans to slash the 13,000 or so technical courses currently available to 15.

Students taking higher technical education courses at levels 4-6 will also be able to get maintenance loans.

The CBI said businesses were “delighted” by the move. Carolyn Fairbairn, the employers’ organisation’s director-general, said it had long called for the sort of reform now being proposed.

“Increasing the number of teaching hours for technical subjects is fundamental to delivering world class training for our young people in every part of the UK,” she said.

“There has never been a more important time to address the UK’s skills shortages. Investment in skills by employers and the government, working together in partnership, are the key to giving young people the opportunities they need to succeed.

“And with the majority of people who will be working in 2030 already in the workforce now, the proposed focus on adult skills provision will put this type of training on the right path to major and necessary improvement.”

Philip Hammonds, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will formally announce the government’s plans at his first Spring Budget on Wednesday.

It is expected the new courses will be rolled out in two years’ time and will receive £500m of new funding a year once the scheme is fully up and running.

The proposals build on last year’s announcement that thousands of what the government called “ineffective courses that short-change employers and young people” would be replaced with 15 “straightforward routes into technical employment, creating a more skilled workforce fit for modern Britain”.

Union slams ‘dead-end’ construction courses

Unite, the trade union, has uncovered what it calls “shocking” figures which suggest that thousands of young people are being placed on so-called ‘dead-end’ classroom-based construction courses.

Under a Freedom of Information request, Unite found that while 192,500 young people began a classroom based construction course in 2015/16, a rise of 14% on the previous year, only 21,460 people began a construction apprenticeship.

Therefore, Unite claimed, 89% of people beginning a construction course were undertaking potentially ‘dead-end’ training.

Acting general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said: “These figures are truly shocking. For whatever reason we find ourselves in the terrible situation of increasingly offering young people a classroom construction course but also in effect denying them the chance to acquire the qualifications needed to enter the industry in a skilled role. 

“Classroom based construction teaching has a vital role to play in the training of construction apprentices. What is urgently needed is a refocussing of resources to ensure that money is more effectively invested in boosting the number of genuine apprenticeships, so that a far higher number of young people can acquire the skills and qualifications to enter the industry.

“We need to build an effective alliance including: Unite, employers, FE colleges, apprentice providers and the government to boost apprenticeships and ensure young people are able to access meaningful courses.”