The Conservatives have pledged to improve further education and skills if they win the election, including the promise of a University Technical College (UTC) “within reach of every city”.
Launching the party’s election manifesto at UTC Swindon today, prime minister David Cameron said his ambition was to make Britain the best place in the world to start and grow a business.
He highlighted the government’s creation of 2.2 million new apprenticeships over the last five years, and said a Tory government would create 3 million more over the next parliament.
Under the heading "We will improve skills training", the manifesto says: “We will continue to replace lower-level, classroom-based further education courses with high quality apprenticeships that combine training with experience of work and a wage.”
It says a Tory government will “ensure there is a University Technical College within reach of every city," though it does not specify what this will mean in practice.
There are currently 30 UTCs open across England, with 20 more opening by 2016. They offer technical, practical and academic courses to 14-19-year-olds, specialising in subjects where there are a shortage of skills.
A review carried out for the Labour party last year also called for UTCs to be a “priority” when planning future schools provision.
However, the programme suffered a blow last year when its flagship college in London, Hackney UTC, announced it was to close after receiving only 29 applications out of a target of 75.
The Tory manifesto also promises improved further education through the growing network of National Colleges, which it says “will provide specialist higher-level vocational training in sectors critical to economic growth”.
It adds: “We will publish more earnings and destination data for FE courses, and require more accreditation of courses by employers.”
Welcome to colleges: the next generation – May 2014