The Secretary of State for Education has highlighted the negative economic impact of the skills shortage in the government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper, suggesting that college courses and apprenticeships can offer “better outcomes” than university.
In the forward to the newly-released Department for Education document, Gavin Williamson said that “too many people – and too many employers – wrongly [believe] that studying for a degree at university is the only worthwhile marker of success”.
He continued: “Although our universities are world-class, it is not the only choice: in many cases, a college course or apprenticeship can offer better outcomes.
“As a result we have a skills gap that is holding us back economically. We do not have enough technicians, engineers or health and social care professionals. Redressing this will be critical to improving our productivity and international competitiveness. This is why we intend to prioritise the courses and qualifications that enable people to get great jobs and which will support our economy to compete with the world’s best.”
In response the government’s publication of the White Paper, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said that improvements to the vocational education system will help address skills gaps in construction and support local builders to train.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Enhancing apprenticeship opportunities in the construction sector is vital if we are to ‘build back better’ from the coronavirus pandemic, and local builders must be at the forefront of these plans. The White Paper’s intention to create greater parity of esteem between vocational and academic education is an important first step and will encourage more young people into apprenticeships. Plans to strengthen the links between employers and colleges will also help builders and is a measure that the FMB has been calling for in recent years. Measures such as College Business Centres will provide greater support to employers new to training. While it is important to reflect on the way apprenticeships are delivered, I continue to believe that a high-quality placement with a local business that is invested in supporting that person, will lead to the best outcomes for all.”
Berry concluded: “It is welcoming to see the White Paper’s ambitions for employers to be better integrated into the development of Local Skills Improvement Plans. Through this, construction businesses will be given a greater voice to advocate for training in occupations that are in short supply. Aligning training opportunities with local, and future, skills needs will create better employment outcomes for young people. This approach can better enable the construction sector to support both the UK’s journey to net-zero and our economic recovery from the pandemic.”
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