Providers must seize the opportunities of the new provider access legislation

8 Jul 2022, 10:45

The new legislation is a call to action for renewed partnerships between schools and providers to deliver meaningful encounters for learners, write Oli de Botton and Jane Hickie

The new provider access legislation presents a timely and important opportunity to take advantage of the growing interest in high-quality technical pathways.

The conversation about technical and vocational education is changing for the better. Surveys report parents and young people are becoming more positive about technical and vocational routes.

There is growing awareness of these pathways and, crucially, evidence shows this increased awareness leads to more young people taking these routes.

The challenge now is to make sure all young people in our schools know about these brilliant and life-changing pathways.

The statutory requirement in the new legislation (skills and post-16 education act 2022) for schools to give opportunities for providers of technical education and apprenticeships to talk to year 8 to 13 pupils is crucial. It is so important that young people have the opportunity to discuss all their potential education and training options.

How can we ensure the new legislation is implemented effectively?

The government is currently asking for ideas and best practice on how to implement the new legislation to give providers better access to school pupils.

The increased focus in this area is welcome and we must take this opportunity to amplify these routes so learners can take whichever next step is right for them.

The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) and AELP are committed to working together to make the most of the opportunities ahead. There is already some great work being done by schools and providers across the country and we are determined to build on that.

Through building networks (including careers hubs), providing support (through our technical education pathway resource, for example) and promoting the benefits of work-based routes, we want to make sure everyone is set up for success.

This legislation is not just about schools, though. It’s a call to action for renewed partnerships between schools and providers to deliver meaningful encounters for learners. Encounters that can inspire, inform and enrich the experience for students.

Providers themselves have work to do to prepare for the opportunities the legislation presents.

And alongside the CEC we will work with a range of stakeholders to see what support we can provide and what barriers we can remove. 

Over time there is also the chance to build stronger and enduring partnerships across sectors – schools, colleges, providers and employers at a national and local level. This will not only support the implementation of the legislation but generate lasting collaboration and learning. This can only be a good thing for young people.

Rebalancing young people’s options

Historically we know there has been a default towards traditional academic routes. High-quality, high-impact careers education is a way of rebalancing that. At its best, this has the power to open up pathways based on ambition and skill, not circumstance or stereotype.

It is also fundamentally inclusive as it will remove barriers and rebalance young people’s options towards technical and vocational pathways.

We are optimistic the new legislation will ensure those working with young people are focused on the importance of careers education. This is critical because high-quality, work-based routes are so often the answer for students. This is about the young person who knows their passion but doesn’t know how to make it their career.

It’s about the young person who thought certain jobs were closed off to people from their town or their background. It’s about the young person who doesn’t know how their skills might translate to the world of work. 

Of course, this legislation on its own won’t change perceptions of vocational routes. It’s up to all of us  ̶  providers, schools, employers and careers professionals – to come together and make the most of the opportunity it gives us.

We won’t get there overnight and there will be challenges along the way. But our goal is to make sure young people and their parents look with fresh eyes at all pathways.

That parity of esteem, making sure young people understand all the educational routes that are open to them, will lead to fairer outcomes.

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