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Higher Technical Education Reform

Volume 678: debated on Tuesday 14 July 2020

Today, I am pleased to launch the Government’s new reforms of higher technical education in England.

Take up of higher technical education in England is low and has been falling, leading to skills shortages across our economy. Employers are struggling to access the higher technical skills they need to grow and thrive and learners are missing out on the opportunities that a higher technical education can bring. To build a more prosperous, productive and fairer country, that needs to change.

We are already taking action to strengthen technical education, with the roll-out of T-levels, investment in our further education colleges and up to £290 million for flagship institutes of technology. Now we need to take the next step in levelling up our skills system and reverse the generational decline in higher technical education.

Our vision is for higher technical education to be a popular and prestigious choice that delivers the skills employers and learners need. We want to encourage more students to continue studying after T-levels or A-levels, and we want higher technical education to attract workers of all ages looking to upskill and retrain.

At the moment, there are thousands of higher technical qualifications, with no national assurance that they provide the skills employers need. Some qualifications and courses are excellent, but overall there is low awareness and varying quality. The range of terminology, qualifications and provider types creates a complex landscape that is hard for employers and learners to navigate.

We will be establishing a high-quality system of higher technical education where learners and employers can have confidence in high-quality courses, whether they are taught in a further education college, a university or an independent training provider. The reforms being set out today are a vital first step in achieving that.

We will introduce a national scheme to approve higher technical qualifications that provide the skills that employers need, starting with digital qualifications, and followed by health and science and construction qualifications. This scheme will be delivered through the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, and the institute will be guided by employer-led national standards.

We want providers offering high-quality higher technical courses to have access to industry standard facilities and equipment, teachers with relevant industrial experience and pedagogical expertise, and close links to employers. At the heart of this are our flagship institutes of technology and our national colleges. We will work with the Office for Students and Ofsted, drawing on their regulatory expertise, to ensure that higher technical education best meets the needs of learners and employers and provides value for money.

Finally, we will raise the profile and understanding of the best higher technical education courses through a Government-backed brand, a communications campaign and improvements to information, advice and guidance.

Reforming and growing higher technical education will be a long-term endeavour. We will continue to develop and implement our reforms carefully and work closely with everyone who shares our goal of improving higher technical education. Together we can transform higher technical education and better support learners and employers across England.