Britain must drop its “snobby” attitude to technical and vocational education, Damian Hinds will claim, as he unveils plans for a “new generation” of higher technical qualifications.
A new suite of qualifications at level 4 and 5 – the space between A levels and honours degrees, currently occupied by the likes of HNDs and foundation degrees – is needed to “help more people get on in their careers and employers to access the skills they need”, the education secretary will say today.
As part of a package of reforms intended to close the productivity gap between the UK and other nations such as Germany, France and the US, Mr Hinds will also announce a reform of the pupil destination measure. This will involve creating one measure to show “how many young people are doing higher training of any type”, which will then be broken down into degrees, higher apprenticeships and higher technical qualifications such as HNDs.
A package of support will also be unveiled for skills advisory panels – partnerships between public and private sector employers, councils, colleges and universities, which will assess local skills needs.
Tackling 'technical education snobs'
In October 2017, the Department for Education announced a review into higher-level technical education, looking across level 4 and 5 provision and how technical qualifications at these levels could better address the needs of learners and employers.
Mr Hinds is expected to say: “As a nation, I’m afraid we’ve been technical education snobs. We’ve revered the academic but treated vocational as second class – when we do it well, law, engineering, medicine, then we don’t even call it vocational.
“Why has this has been tolerated for so long? I think the reason is the ‘OPC’ problem. For so many opinion-formers, commentators and, yes, politicians, vocational courses are for ‘other people’s children’.”
'Not the only path'
A “degree is not the only path to a great job," he will say, adding: “We want young people to acquire the higher qualifications that lead to high-skilled, more rewarding jobs – whether through a degree, a higher apprenticeship or higher technical qualifications.
“I want us to break down some of the false barriers we’ve erected between academic and technical routes. I don’t see any reason why higher technical training shouldn’t be open to certain A-level students as long as they have the prerequisite knowledge and practical skill.
“Equally, I want T-level students that want to, to be able to go to university to do relevant technical degrees.”
Mr Hinds is also expected to unveil details of the second wave of T levels due to be introduced in 2021.