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Technical Education

Volume 615: debated on Monday 10 October 2016

We are transforming and reforming the technical qualifications available in schools and colleges, as my hon. Friend the Minister for Schools just said, to ensure that they are challenging and rigorous. We are creating clear technical education routes at the highest skill levels and will boost the capacity to deliver them through national colleges and institutes of technology in degree and higher apprenticeships. The post-16 skills plan that we published in July outlines the most radical reform of post-16 education in almost 70 years, by creating a high-quality technical track.

I welcome the commitment of the Secretary of State and the Minister to technical education, alongside more academic routes. Employers in Faversham are keen to support young people in apprenticeships, but they have told me that apprenticeships need to be more flexible and less bureaucratic, so will the Minister involve such employers as he develops the technical education system?

My hon. Friend is exactly right. Technical education clearly needs to be aligned better with business needs. We are building on the apprenticeships reforms, whereby employers are designing the new apprenticeship standards to meet their needs, by giving employers a strong role in setting the standards across the 15 technical routes. They will advise on the knowledge, skills and behaviours that are needed, so that technical education has value for employers and learners alike, and is responsive to the requirements of the economy and employers.

BTECs are challenging and rigorous. It would be quite concerning if we had an over-focus on technical education, pure and simple, without maintaining a strong applied route through BTECs. Will the Minister give us a commitment about the future of BTECs?

Clearly, we had to reform technical education, because there were far too many qualifications. There were over 13,000 qualifications, and engineering had something like 500. We are looking to offer students a technical pathway if that is what they choose, and we will look at the best qualifications for those technical pathways.