Proposed Industrial Strategy
The Prime Minister and the Department for Business, Energy &Industrial Strategy launched a 37-page Green Paper for consultation in January called “Building our Industrial Strategy”. This is part of Theresa May’s post-Brexit plan to reassure businesses worried about the skills gaps. The second “pillar” in the strategy (only behind Investing in Science, Research and Innovation) is Developing Skills. This includes proposals to:
· Test new “ambitious” approaches to encourage lifelong learning, particularly where industries are changing or in decline. This includes consideration of the role of centres of community learning, looking at individual costs of developing skills, improving outreach, providing better information, and the option to introduce maintenance loans for higher technical education. The Green Paper acknowledges that there is a “growing challenge” with lifelong learning, with people “living and working longer, but training across working life is going down.”
· Introduce a new system of 15 technical education routes alongside academic ones – already outlined in the Post-16 Skills Plan.
· Funding new Institutes of Technology to attract more industry specialists, deliver STEM education and provide an alternative to University. These would specialise in technical subjects aligned to the new technical routes at levels 3, 4 and 5 and have “a local focus to deliver qualifications of value that meet the skills needs of local employers”. The extra £170 million capital funding for this will go to existing providers, according to FE Week, providing a “badge of honour” to FE providers that excel at higher-level technical education (similar to the old CoVE status). It is unclear at this point if independent training providers can apply for the money, or if it will be restricted to colleges.
· Tackle regional disparities in opportunity and prosperity through better pre-school education, schemes to retain graduates, and measures to increase the take up of apprenticeships.
· Develop FE Colleges to become centres of excellence in teaching math and English.
· Improving advanced maths using Professor Sir Adrian Smith’s independent review proposals.
· Develop a comprehensive careers strategy for technical education, including an “UCAS-style” search mechanism for technical education courses and advice.
As ever, the main focus is on young learners with Theresa May saying, “Our action will help ensure young people develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future. That means boosting technical education and ensuring we extend the same opportunity and respect we give university graduates to those people who pursue technical routes”.
Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute picked this up, saying: “To deliver these ambitions, however, we need to focus on our current workforce as well as schools. We are concerned the measures in the announcement risk willing the ends but not the means”.
The consultation closes on 17 April 2017. To respond, there are 38 questions at the end of the Green Paper.