UK announces measures to transform higher technical education to plug skill gaps

FILE PHOTO: Gavin Williamson is seen outside Downing Street in London
FILE PHOTO: Gavin Williamson is seen outside Downing Street in London

UK education secretary Gavin Williamson on Tuesday (14) announced measures to boost the quality of higher technical education to help plug skill gaps, level up opportunities and support the country’s economic recovery.

These steps as part of a long-term plan will make sure more people can access high-quality courses and employers can unlock the future workforce.

As part of the new initiative, the government will introduce newly approved higher technical qualifications from September 2022 with a new brand and quality mark. By working with Ofsted and the Office for Students the quality consistency of courses across education institutions will be ensured.

To create awareness about the benefits of higher technical qualification, a new public campaign in partnership with employers and career advisers will be launched soon.

A major review last year revealed that though higher technical qualifications like diplomas and foundation degrees can boost wages and plug skill gaps not enough people are studying them.

These qualifications are offered at Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) institutions, but research shows that the quality varies.
“Employers are struggling to find the computer programmers, engineers, electricians and technicians they need, and students of all ages are missing out on the high skill, high wage jobs that higher technical education can lead to,” said Gavin Williamson.

Matthew Percival, CBI People and Skills Director, said: “Putting employers in the driving seat will give them confidence that courses on offer meet their needs.

“With four-fifths of employers expecting to increase higher skilled roles in the coming years, offering clear progression routes through higher technical qualifications will be essential to creating a sustainable and inclusive future economy.”

“This announcement of a major reform of higher technical education, together with the introduction of T Levels, should go a long way to ending the skill mismatch and should be strongly supported by all political parties and industry,” said Lord Sainsbury of Turville, chair of the independent panel on Technical Education.

The announcement follows the education secretary’s recent pledge to publish a White Paper on further education and the new ‘kickstart’ scheme to create work placements for young people on Universal Credit, £111 million investment to triple the number of traineeships available across England.

It also complements the government’s review of post-18 education to ensure the system is joined up, accessible and encourages the development of the skills the country needs.