What is the Government’s Post 16 Skills Plan?

The Government is driving through big changes that will alter how 16 to 18-year-olds receive technical training.
29 November 2016

You may have heard things are changing for post 16-year-old training in the UK. Technical education, which prepares young people for careers like plumbing and construction, is getting the biggest revamp in a generation. But there are still many questions to be answered. Here’s what’s going on.

What is the the Post 16 Skills Plan?

The Post-16 Skills Plan forms part of the Government’s wider apprenticeship plan. Originally published in July 2016, it was informed by recommendations made by a panel of industry, further and higher education experts headed up by Lord Sainsbury.

In the forward to the Post-16 Skills Plan the then Minister of State for Skills, MP Nick Boles, stated that: “Technical education remains the poor relation of academic education. The choice of courses and qualifications can be confusing, and links to the world of work are not strong enough.” Adding: “We are determined to make technical education an option that leads to long-term success.”

We are determined to make technical education an option that leads to long-term success.
MP Nick Boles in the forward to the Post-16 Skills Plan

Lord Sainsbury, in his own report, said: “We have today a serious shortage of technicians in industry at a time when over 400,000 16-24 year olds are unemployed. It is hard to believe that none of these young people have the ability and motivation to train as technicians if given good opportunities to do so.”

So what are the changes being made to technical education?

Under the Skills Plan, a student aged 16 to 18-years-old will be able to choose from one of 15 technical routes. Each route will begin with a common core of knowledge and skills before specialising in an occupation. For example, a student choosing ‘construction’ as a common core may then choose to specialise as an electrician or a carpenter.

Sounds good – so what’s the problem?

The changes are broadly welcomed. For too long post-16 educational policy has focused on GCSEs and A-Levels – a pathway not suitable for many technical careers. But, there are still many questions that need to be answered. For example, the Skills Plan currently misses out several core sectors, including retail and sport.

In response to this concern, Lord Sainsbury said:  “Technical education is not a catch-all term for everything that isn’t GCSEs, A-levels and degrees. So, falling outside of technical education are many skilled occupations, such as retail assistant, which do not require a significant amount of technical knowledge.”

What next?

The Technical and Further Education Bill, which was introduced to implement the Government’s Post 16 Skills Plan, is currently working its way through Parliament having just had its second reading.

Now that it has moved into the committee stage, we are speaking with civil servants and ministers about our concerns. We will be formulating a full submission to the Public Bill Committee, the body currently receiving evidence in relation to the Technical and Further Education Bill, and will be publishing this in due course.

You too can have your say about the bill. The Public Bill Committee is currently accepting written evidence and the sooner you send in your submission, the more time the Committee will have to take it into consideration.

The Committee will stop receiving written evidence at the end of the Committee stage, which is scheduled to be 5pm on Tuesday 6 December 2016.

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