The UK government is committing an extra £500m a year to improve technical skills training, an effort to offset the lack of EU workers ahead of Brexit.
Chancellor Philip Hammond will address the threat of skills shortages after the UK leaves the EU in his first budget on Wednesday.
The new plan is being labeled as one of the biggest overhauls of post-16 education since the introduction of A-levels 70 years ago.
Half a billion pounds will go towards increasing the training available for 16- to 19-year-olds on technical programmes to over 900 hour per year and providing maintenance loans to students in further education or at a technical college.
The UK’s current technical education system requires students to pick from 13,000 different qualifications. This will be replaced with just 15 standalone courses – dubbed ‘T-Levels’, the technical version of A-Levels. The 15 new courses are expected to start from the 2019/20 academic year.
Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI director general, said: “There has never been a more important time to address the UK’s skills shortages. Investment in skills by employers and the government, working together in partnership, is the key to giving young people the opportunities they need to succeed.”
In response to the news David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said:
“We are delighted that the Chancellor has recognised what the Association of Colleges (AoC) has been saying about the need to invest more in technical education for both young people and adults. For too long, technical skills and education have been overlooked when investment in education is being considered; this announcement will make a significant and positive difference.
“This investment is a vote of confidence in colleges that are ready to work with employers to co-design the new routes, deliver the 900 hours per year and help more young people make a smooth and successful transition to work and to higher level learning. This signals a step-change in thinking, backed by investment in technical education for young people which will put us on a par with our international competitors.
“We know that many young people become motivated by experiencing the world of work, so the funding to support work placements is critical to the success of this investment. We will be working hard with our partners to secure the 180,000 work placements of one to three months which are needed to ensure that technical education is truly occupation focused.
“The Chancellor is right to highlight the need to improve productivity, address regional inequalities and help adults re-train and learn new skills. The extension of maintenance loans to adults on pre-degree part-time skills courses is essential to widen access and we look forward to helping the Government design and deliver the pilots for lifelong learning.
“Post-Brexit Britain will need more self-sufficiency in developing skills and people will need the confidence, support and opportunities to adapt and change over 50+ year careers. This announcement is a good down-payment to help develop a new and better system over the next decade. We will be working with the Government to help design that system and implement the changes needed.”