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Technical Qualifications: Strengthening their Value

Volume 708: debated on Monday 31 January 2022

14. What estimate he has made of the number of students studying for (a) BTECs and (b) T-levels in the 2021-22 academic year. (905340)

We are reforming technical education to support progression and meet employer needs. Our initial figures show that nearly 5,500 new students started T-levels in September last year, more than four times the number who started in 2020. We do not routinely publish take-up data on individual qualifications such as Pearson BTECs, but we will publish in June the number of students who were studying for applied general qualifications at the end of 2021.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating my constituent Adele Hughes, who is working as an apprentice with Raytheon Technologies, on being awarded a bronze medal at the recent WorldSkills UK Competition, and does he agree that Adele’s remarkable achievement demonstrates the value of technical qualifications and apprenticeships?

I am delighted to extend the Department’s congratulations to Adele. What we are seeing through our apprenticeships programme at the moment is the study and achievement of world-class skills in England. That is why I hope my hon. Friend, and all other hon. Members, will join me next week in celebrating National Apprenticeships Week.

More than a quarter of a million students are studying BTECs, but the Government are rushing ahead with a set of changes about which parents and schools and colleges are very concerned, especially as BTECs are taken up disproportionately by the most disadvantaged families in the most disadvantaged communities. One of the issues that have been raised with me is the limited number of opportunities and qualifications that will be available under T-levels, in comparison with BTECs. Can the Minister explain how a levelling-up agenda is being advanced by a reduction in the range of opportunities available to such students?

It was a central finding of the Sainsbury review, led by a Labour peer, that the vocational qualifications system should be simplified. What we are doing is creating world-class gold-standard qualifications that will give students meaningful work placements that will enable them to acquire qualifications designed by employers to give them the skills that the economy needs.

Apprenticeships and technical qualifications are extremely important to my constituents. Following the success of my jobs fair last year, I am organising an apprenticeships fair on 11 February this year. Will the Minister agree to open the fair, or to come along at some point during the day and support those young people in my constituency who are looking for an alternative route into work?