A report has identified several changes the UK needs to make to its education and skills system to remain globally competitive.
‘Techicians and Progression’ is the result of a six month parliamentary inquiry, chaired by Professor Alison Halstead and conducted by the Skills Commission; a body comprising senior parliamentarians, leaders from the further and higher education sectors and industry representatives.
The report’s recommendations are directed at a range of actors in the skills sector including government departments, professional bodies, colleges and employers.
An analysis of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) qualifications commissioned for the report, found “the English further education and skills sector is not producing enough technicians”.
It adds that “a plan for growth requires a new strategic focus on technician education and training – a plan for technicians, a cross-departmental government strategy for STEM.”
The report also calls for changes to the qualification development system, that those who are using and paying for training, including learners, teachers and employers, are more involved in its design.
The Commission also recommends steps to allow and encourage further education colleges to offer vocationally oriented degrees.
The report explores how the professions can be opened up to those with vocational qualifications and says the government should “support the establishment of a new technical pathway to the professions as a worthwhile alternative to university education”.
Meanwhile, the report also suggests that professional bodies should play a greater role in the development of qualifications and apprenticeships.
The Commission envisages a system where a 14-year-old studying an engineering diploma in school is already on the first rung of a ladder leading to chartered engineer status.
Finally, it concludes that the split between the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) creates “unnecessary obstacles for employers wanting to provide their employees with technician and higher level training”.
It recommends the Government establish a single funding agency for post-compulsory education – merging the HEFCE with the SFA.
The Commission also recommends the government look at re-introducing financial Learner Accounts as a way of stimulating more non-government investment in training and making the education system truly driven by learners and employers.