At least 100 more University Technical Colleges should be set up in the next six years to help tackle the skills gap, according to a new report.
In an independent review of the economy carried out for the Labour party, former education minister Lord Adonis says UTCs should be a “priority” when building new schools to help increase opportunities for technical education.
UTCs offer technical education to 14-19-year-olds, specialising in subjects where there is a shortage of skills. There are currently 17 across the country with another 33 approved.
However Lord Adonis says this is not enough: “They are a long way from having a major impact on the economy’s skills shortages,” his review says.
Eight of the 24 recommendations in the report, Mending the Fractured Economy, focus on solving the skills mismatch – the gap between what education offers and what employers want.
Lord Adonis recommends a major expansion of high-quality youth apprenticeships, including trebling the number of Stem (science, technology, engineering, maths) youth apprenticeships by 2020, as well as building stronger links between schools and employers. He recommends that every secondary school in England should appoint a full-time director of enterprise and employment.
When it comes to FE, the report says colleges should focus strongly on teaching technician-level skills, and says adult learning priorities should be set locally.
“Too many vocational courses do not lead to employment in relevant occupations, while many industries suffer from chronic technical skills shortages,” it says.
“Local Enterprise Partnerships, working with their local authorities should be able to set priorities for the funding of post-19 vocational training courses in their area.”
Dr Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group of colleges, said FE colleges are already “strong players” in their local area and would welcome greater devolution of skills funding and more local autonomy.
But, she added: “We will be helping the Labour party to understand the significant contribution to local growth already made by FE colleges.
“We believe it makes more sense to exploit this existing potential than to create thousands of new and potentially unnecessary institutions.”
Adult education body Niace said the report should have had a greater focus on the importance of skills training for those already in work.
It’s chief executive David Hughes said: “It is reassuring to see skills being discussed on an equal footing with infrastructure funding.
“However it is disappointing that it has not recognised the importance of stimulating people already in the labour force to improve their skills and incentivising employers to make this happen.”