The long-term economic prosperity of the UK could be at risk if the country does not get the introduction and implementation of T Levels right, according to the Association of Colleges (AoC).
Failure to implement the new policy in the right way and with sufficient funding would leave the UK with fewer engineers, builders and electricians, and fewer workers with the right skills across most industries, said the AoC.
The government is due to introduce the first of the new T level qualifications, intended to be equivalent to A levels, from 2020, and a suite of new higher technical qualifications for adults has also been announced.
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'Genuine and positive'
The AoC said these were “genuine and positive attempts to give young people and adults the skills they need to have successful careers, and colleges are working hard to help to design and implement them”. However, there were serious concerns about their viability, based on current funding levels, the organisation added. Successful delivery required teaching staff with specialist industry expertise, up to date equipment, and smaller class sizes; all of which required more funding, the association said.
“Even using funding projections from the Department for Education, colleges will not be able to afford to offer the range of specialisms required, because they cannot afford to attract and retain staff,” it said in a statement. “This proves especially difficult in key skills shortage sectors such as engineering and construction, where pay is already at a premium.
“As it stands, even if every place is filled on specialist courses such as engineering, construction and science, they will be operating at a significant loss. If we do not get this right, the skills gap will continue to grow, and the country will have fewer engineers, builders, electricians, and fewer workers with the right skills across most industries. There is a real risk to the long-term economic prosperity of the UK.”
'Funding is central'
David Hughes, chief executive of the AoC, said: “The introduction of T levels and higher technical qualifications will offer new and better opportunities for thousands of young people and adults, giving them the skills they need to get on in life. They will help employers find the skilled people they need to be successful. It is vital that the government gets their implementation right, and funding is central to that.”
He added: “If we are serious about securing the UK’s economic long-term success, we need to focus on improving skills and productivity. These new qualifications have the potential to do just that, but only if we invest properly in them.
"Adequate funding is needed for colleges to be able to attract and retain the right staff and have the right equipment; current funding levels do not support that so they cannot be delivered. I urge the chancellor to listen to the calls from MPs from his own and other parties and make this a priority in the upcoming comprehensive spending review.”