Technical skills report welcomed by educators and employers

The Edge Foundation has welcomed last week’s report into the provision of technical training in the UK. The BIS report, based in large part on the recommendations of the Sainsbury report, calls for the scrapping of nearly 20,000 existing technical courses in favour of a new slimmed down system of 15 new strands, as well as the development of one unitary authority to oversee technical training.

“For far too long, technical education has played second fiddle to the better-known academic path,” Lord (Kenneth) Baker, former education secretary and now chair of the independent Edge Foundation, said. “A big part of the problem is that vocational courses and qualifications are complicated and confusing – there are far, far too many of them. If experts and employers can’t make sense of them, what hope is there for young people and parents?”

Lord Baker went on to commend the work of the Lord Sainsbury and his colleagues, saying it provides a clear plan of action.

“There will be fifteen simple routes, ranging from construction to digital, and from social care to catering and hospitality. There will be fewer qualifications, aligned with apprenticeships and developed by employers.

There will be opportunities to move between the academic and technical routes – in both directions – and study for professional qualifications and degrees. At last, we’ll have a technical education system that equals the best in the world.”

Under the new regime, the vast majority of 16 year-olds will choose between two main options:

  • The academic option, for those who are aiming to progress to a full-time undergraduate course at university at 18. This option includes A-levels and applied general qualifications. Reform of this option fell outside the Panel’s remit.
  • The technical option, for those wishing to gain the technical knowledge and skills required to progress to skilled employment at 18. There are two possible modes of delivery:
  • apprenticeship;
  • a two-year, college-based technical education route.


Good start but reforms must be delivered

The report was also welcomed by the FSB and other employer groups. The head of education and skills at the British Chamber of Commerce, Marcus Mason, commended the report but called for a clear implementation plan to deliver on its recommendations.

“Businesses want high-quality and easy to understand technical routes that rival the academic option, and the Sainsbury Report and Skills Plan go some way in setting out how this can be achieved. If streamlined and clearly signposted, technical routes will bring clarity to a system which is often confusing to businesses and students alike.

“The government needs to make sure these new technical routes are relevant and aligned to business needs and employment outcomes. Only then will they be truly valued by firms and students. Businesses are faced with an ever-growing skills shortage, and any change that seeks to shift the dynamic will be supported by companies across the country.

“However, previous reforms have often been hampered by continuous revolution and change, rather than allowing policies time to take hold. If these reforms have permanence, then the long-term stability they generate will gain buy-in and trust from all sides.”