A planned shake-up of further education and training in England will tie courses to the needs of employers in local communities, under government plans.
The Department for Education (DfE) said the Skills for Jobs White Paper, broadly welcomed by business groups, aims to put an end to the misconception that a degree is the only route to a rewarding career.
It demands that the existing links between post-16 colleges and employers are bolstered to develop tailored plans to meet local skills needs – replacing the current ‘one size fits all’ approach.
This would be done with support from a £65m Strategic Development Fund, the government said, alongside improved oversight to ensure training is relevant to the demands of companies.
The White Paper also plans to allow people of any age access to flexible student finance from 2025 and seeks to bolster the numbers of technical education specialists through a recruitment campaign.
However, a union for school and further education heads warned the proposals had to be backed up with some serious investment after years of “severe under-funding” of the post-16 education sector.
The plans build on Boris Johnson’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee, revealed last autumn.
A £2.5bn scheme already announced promises to give adults without an A-level or equivalent qualification the chance to take a free vocational college course.
It is due to get underway in April as the economy looks to recover from the effects of the coronavirus crisis and build a new post-Brexit future, with green energy and wider technology among the areas deemed critical.
The government’s separate Plan for Jobs has, since August last year, offered financial incentives to employers for each apprentice they take on under the age of 25 as part of the COVID fightback.
But, despite the furlough scheme, it is predicted that the worst is far from over for employment prospects given continuing lockdowns and their effects on education.
The PM said of the latest announcement: “Our Lifetime Skills Guarantee means that everyone will be given the chance to get the skills they need, right from the very start of their career.
“In the years ahead, the reforms we have announced today will deliver high quality technical education across the country – and help people retrain and secure better paid jobs.”
The director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall, said a partnership was crucial if good jobs were to be created.
He said: “We welcome these ambitious plans to put the skills needs of businesses at the heart of the further education system.
“As local business leaders look to rebuild their firms and communities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it is essential to ensure that the right skills and training provision is in place to support growth.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, responded: “We continue to be concerned about the severe underfunding of the post-16 sector, which plays such a vital role in delivering
the technical and vocational education that the government says it is so keen to boost, as well as academic routes which are also of the utmost importance.”
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