The reform of vocational training shows no sign of slowing. Hot on the heels of the on-going changes to apprenticeships with employer-led Trailblazers designing new apprenticeship standards, the announcement of the apprenticeship levy and plans to route funding for apprenticeship training via employers, there is now going to be reform of the ‘apprenticeship pipeline’ 16 – 18 year old education options. I attended a meeting about this, kicked-off by MP Nick Boles Minister for Skills and Education and entitled Technical and Professional Education Reforms (TPER). This piece of work will look to simplify the dazzling array of educational options open to those age 16+.
The case for change was explained thus, 50% of sixteen year olds will either choose the academic option by staying on for A-Levels in schools or FE colleges, or opt for an apprenticeship/ alternative employment, or a full-time FE college course. Only 7% of 16 – 18 year olds start on apprenticeships, and government modelling suggests this proportion is unlikely to increase significantly because most employers prefer to take on young people at 18 rather than 16 (In our experience the older applicants perform better in assessments, therefore are more likely to succeed in their application).
The Minister went on to state that 46% of 16-year olds who do not choose the academic option or an apprenticeship are faced with a complex and confusing landscape of thousands of qualifications, many of which have not been designed with employer involvement or to meet the needs of industry. Some reforms were begun in the previous parliament, but the Government is committed to finishing the job.
An independent expert panel headed by Lord Sainsbury will look to learn from the recent Trailblazer apprenticeship reforms and ensure a college-based route is designed to meet standards set by employers. This way, an 18 year old completing a two year course will have increased their employability prospects because they have learnt the skills and knowledge that recruiting employers are looking for. The panel will work with employers to identify the principles that will underpin the development of new technical and professional routes, and advise and make recommendations to the government on what the reformed TPE system should look like to put England on par with the best in the world.
Look out for future blogs, we are in an exciting time for the reform of vocational education and training.