Government’s new “Skills Plan” to transform delivery of UK technical education

08 July 2016 -


Post-16 education will be simplified to increase quality and reduce confusion

Matthew Rock

The government has today announced its “Post-16 skills plan” that changes the way that technical education is delivered in the UK.

Under the current system, school-leavers can choose between a staggering 20,000 courses. Under the new arrangement, there will be 15 “routes” covering the main skills that the economy needs.

The report follows an inquiry by former Labour minister Lord Sainsbury, which found the current technical education system to be confusing and unclear, leaving students with a dizzying choice of qualifications. An engineering student, for example, must currently choose from 501 different courses.

Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “Britain has all the ingredients needed to compete with other skilled nations, but we must create a technical education system that can harness that talent.

This cannot be the government’s job alone; we must work with employers and post-16 providers to unlock the potential in this country.

The routes will, says the report, be “primarily delivered through apprenticeships” and will contain core elements such as English, mathematics and digital learning. The objective is that students will achieve a level of specialist skills by the end of the programme.

Under the reforms students will be able to move easily between technical and academic options. Those who are not ready to start an academic or technical option at the age of 16 will be able to opt for a specifically tailored, fully funded ‘transition year’. Options would then include a two-year, college-based programme, including compulsory work experience, or an employment-based programme, such as an apprenticeship. The routes will also be available to adults wanting to get back into education.

The new “routes” will be launched in 2019 and ready for full roll-out in the further education system by 2022. The 15 routes are:

  1. Agriculture, Environmental and Animal Care
  2. Business and Administrative
  3. Catering and Hospitality
  4. Childcare and Education
  5. Construction
  6. Creative and Design
  7. Digital
  8. Engineering and Manufacturing
  9. Hair and Beauty
  10. Health and Science
  11. Legal, Finance and Accounting
  12. Protective Services
  13. Sales, Marketing and Procurement
  14. Social Care
  15. Transport and Logistics

Another notable element of the new Skills Plan is that, at 16, students will have to choose between an “academic” (A-levels and university) path or a “technical option.” This change is likely to be controversial both among schools and students.

Reflecting the changes, the new Institute for Apprenticeships will be expanded and renamed as the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

Commenting on the Post-16 Skills Plan, CMI Director of Strategy Petra Wilton said: “Engaging employers in defining these new technical routes for young people will be essential to creating a skilled workforce.

“The government’s Post-16 Skills Plan should build on the lessons learned from the successful development of new apprenticeship standards, such as the leadership and management apprenticeships which are a result of a 30-strong group of employers working in partnership with the professional body and education providers.

“While there is clearly lots of detail to be worked through, we welcome these reforms and look forward to working with the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education to help align these new routes to apprenticeships and provide far more simple pathways to developing professionals for the future.”

Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills, and special adviser on education policy to the secretary-general at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, said: “Modernising apprenticeships has been on the policy agenda for some time already, but now the UK has a promising plan to advance technical education from a last resort to a first choice. Bringing training in line with the needs of the economy will be key to drive up productivity and prosperity.”

Read the full government Post-16 Skills Plan here

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