Overhaul planned for education and training in England

Ministers are setting out plans to improve vocational education to help ensure that employers get the skilled workforce they need.

Publishing its Skills for Jobs White Paper, the Department for Education said it wanted to dispel the myth that ‘a degree is the only route to success’ and that ‘further and technical education is the second-class option’.

The measures put forward include: business groups working alongside colleges to develop skills plans to meet local training needs; a development fund, with £65 million, to establish new college business centres; giving employers a central role in designing almost all technical courses by 2030, ensuring education and training is linked to skills needed; boosting the quality and uptake of higher technical qualifications by introducing newly approved qualifications from September 2022; and changing the law so that from 2025 people can access flexible student finance to train and retrain throughout their lives.

Additionally, as announced in December, adults without a full level 3 qualification (A-level equivalent) will be given the chance to gain one from April 2021 for free in a range of sectors including engineering, health and accountancy.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "These reforms are at the heart of our plans to build back better, ensuring all technical education and training is based on what employers want and need, whilst providing individuals with the training they need to get a well-paid and secure job."

Organisations representing school and college leaders have welcomed the announcement, but warned that funding to the further education sector needs to be raised to help deliver the proposals.

Sir Richard Leese, chair of the Local Government Association’s City Regions Board said: "Further education (FE) institutions, working together with their local councils, have a vital role to play in levelling up the country and local communities. The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed a growing unemployment crisis and it is vital that we provide the right skills and training for young people and adults in our communities to help support them into good long term employment.

“It is right that the FE system should align to the needs of employers, and it is good that Chambers of Commerce will be part of that. It is also important for all parts of the FE system to work in partnership across a community, including with independent training providers and adult and community learning provision run by councils and others.  

“Together the FE system should offer routes to help local businesses fulfil their recruitment needs, stepping stones for people to increase their skills – be they life skills or skills to secure work with an employer or become self-employed. That requires a strong role for councils who know their communities best.”