On 23rd January the Prime Minister Theresa May revealed plans for a new, more interventionist, industrial strategy, designed to boost the post-Brexit UK economy.
The plan was published in a 132 page Green Paper, ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’.
Part of the plan involves an overhaul of the vocational/technical skills and education system, including measures that will help to ensure that people are able to make informed choices about their education and career options. The quality of careers advice, particularly for disadvantaged students, is a big problem. Students, parents and employers need to be able to make informed and confident decisions about education and careers – particularly with regards to vocational/technical qualifications, which are still very much perceived as the ‘non-traditional’ route.
The Green Paper states that, ‘Our improved education and skills system must be supported by high-quality career provision’. In order to address this issue, the government is reviewing the current careers offer for people of all ages and will publish a ‘comprehensive strategy’ later this year for careers information, advice and guidance.
We look forward to the publication of this ‘comprehensive strategy’ with great interest.
Aligned with this ‘high-quality career provision’, will be a technical course finding process, similar to the current UCAS process for higher education. This will make vocational education easier to understand and get into – a sort of one-stop information point.
It is encouraging to hear that the government recognises and places value on the vital role that careers education and guidance will play in addressing current workforce skills shortages. People, at various stages of both their educational and working lives, need to be made aware of the multifarious routes into, as well as progression routes through different technical careers – and currently this is not the case. As it stands, the vocational route into FE often seems muddled and confused, when compared to the ‘traditional’ GCSE/A level route into HE – and this needs to change.
The government has announced the creation of new Institutes of Technology which will provide a new raft of higher level vocational learning. Whether these are brand new institutions or a simple re-branding of existing FE colleges remains to be seen; but, however they are branded, the issues of awareness remain the same.
For example, people need to be aware that if you wish to be a Social Worker, GCSE or A level Health & Social Care, (whilst being splendid options), are not the only route. Numerous vocational courses e.g. BTECs, City & Guilds and Cambridge Technicals, have been designed to give relevant, hands-on technical experience, taught by inspiring teachers with real industry experience, and provide a far more realistic career path for many non-academically orientated people.
And the same situation exists with numerous other career options. The value of FE courses needs to be loudly exclaimed from the metaphorical career guidance rooftops.
Further Education, working in partnership with coordinated, informed careers advice and guidance, holds such great potential.
Allister Jordan, Writer/Researcher CASCAID