Government’s downgrading of vocational education puts £750m pipeline of work building colleges at risk

The government has put a potential £750m pipeline of work building new technical colleges at risk after “downgrading” vocational education, industry leaders have warned.

Wates and CITB-ConstructionSkills said the government’s move to downgrade over 3,000 vocational qualifications could “put off” private sector sponsors of University Technical Colleges (UTCs) - which offer technical courses to 14- to 19-year-olds.

Labour leader Ed Miliband also hit out at the government’s vocational qualifications downgrade this week in a speech to the industry.

Miliband claimed government “snobbery” was behind the downgrade and singled out for criticism the downgrade of the engineering diploma from a value of five GCSEs to just one. It is offered by one of only two operational UTCs, run by construction plant giant JCB.

The Baker Dearing Trust, the client managing the UTC programme, said the government’s move had sparked “complete confusion” among the investors and firms lined up behind the colleges.

Peter Mitchell, chief executive of the trust, said it hopes to approve 100 UTCs by 2015 - exceeding the government’s target of 29 colleges.

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