Skip to main content

Technical Education

Volume 782: debated on Wednesday 5 April 2017


Tabled by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the Budget announcement that new T-Levels will be introduced to give parity of esteem for technical education, how they intend to ensure that young people also have the interpersonal skills required to succeed in the workplace.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Farmer, and at his request, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

My Lords, at the heart of the new T-level is a recognition that we must do more to prepare young people for skilled employment. The content of T-levels will be determined by employers and industry professionals. They will identify the skills, knowledge and behaviour that are required for specific occupations, as well as the transferable and interpersonal skills that are vital for all employment and career progression. All young people taking the T-level will also undertake a work placement where they will be able to develop core workplace skills.

I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Interpersonal skills are vital, but so too are the supportive relationships which can hone them. What are Her Majesty’s Government doing to ensure that young people, including care leavers and young offenders leaving prison, who are often bereft of such skills, can enter the world of work with a network of supportive relationships behind them?

My Lords, through the Children and Social Work Bill we are extending the opportunity for support from a personal adviser to all care leavers to the age of 25. We have introduced the “staying put” arrangements, which allow care leavers to continue with their foster parents until they reach the age of 21. We are also piloting the “staying close” scheme for those leaving residential care, and introducing compulsory relationship education in primary schools and a duty on secondary schools to teach relationship and sex education. Together with the MoJ and a partnership led by Achievement for All, we are improving support for young offenders with special educational needs.

My Lords, what encouragement can the Government offer to employers to engage more with schools and colleges, and what support can they give to schools and colleges to make time for employers to set out not only the technical skills, but the employability skills that are so necessary for future careers, and which mean that young people leave education ready for work?

The noble Baroness makes an extremely good point. The Government welcome the engagement of the business and professional communities with the school system in any way that works for them. We want that door to be wide open because it is absolutely clear that the more engagement students have with the world of work, the more likely they are to engage in their studies. This is why we have invested nearly £100 million in the Careers & Enterprise Company to work with other organisations such as Business in the Community, Make the Grade and Inspiring the Future, in order to ensure that this connection between the world of work and schools is close.

My Lords, I had the privilege to chair your Lordships’ Social Mobility Committee, of which the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, was a member. One of the recommendations we made was that young people should have life skills education at school, but the Government did not accept it. In our evidence sessions with employers, we found that they unanimously valued life skills education, which helps young people to be ready for work. Problem solving, co-operating with others, timekeeping and making persuasive phone calls all used to have GCSE equivalence until 2010, when the right honourable Michael Gove abolished it with a stroke.

I agree entirely with the noble Baroness that what are sometimes called essential life skills are vital. As this House knows and I think welcomes, we are introducing a power for the Secretary of State to introduce a duty on secondary schools to teach PSHE. We will be engaging widely on what the contents of PSHE should be. I believe that a lot of the essential life skills to which the noble Baroness refers should be included in that.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the employability record of the students who go to the 44 university technical colleges is the best in the country? Last July we had 1,300 leavers, and only five joined the ranks of the unemployed. That cannot be matched by any other schools in the country. Some 44% went to universities, 32% into apprenticeships and the rest to jobs or further education. As these colleges get support from right across the political spectrum, I hope he agrees that we should have many more of them.

I pay tribute to my noble friend’s pioneering work on university technical colleges. I am fully aware of the statistics to which he refers because he has told me about them on many occasions. I am delighted they are so good.

My Lords, the money announced in the Budget for T-levels was welcome, even though it will not be fully developed until 2022. We already have tech levels, a TechBac and a tech bacc, so it seems the DfE will need good interpersonal skills to create a separate identity for T-levels. Interpersonal skills are surely important in the workplace for young people, no matter whether they took the technical or the academic route. Does the Minister agree that the introduction of compulsory relationship education, agreed in your Lordships’ House yesterday in the Children and Social Work Bill, offers an opportunity for schools to do more to build interpersonal skills for life from an early age?

I agree entirely—it is so important to develop these skills. The noble Baroness referred to some, such as teamwork and communication. Self-management is also very important.

My Lords, I am sure the Minister will understand how much the House supported the Bill as it passed through the House last evening, particularly the section on relationships to which the noble Lord just referred. Mention has been made of young people who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation or to the dreadful things that can come their way online. The Government are going to introduce a strategy document. Will the Minister assure the House that emphasis will be given in it to the most vulnerable children in our society?

I agree entirely with the noble Lord. We have to be particularly sensitive to those vulnerable young children, and I can give that assurance.