Apprenticeships in the Education and Skills Landscapes of England

This paper summarises the key features of recent Government initiatives which impact engineering education and skills in England.

There have been a number of Government initiatives in the last four years that directly impact the engineering education and skills systems in England.

Most recently these have een the Industrial Strategy Green Paper in January 2017 and the Budget supporting technical education in March 2017. This paper attempts to summarise the key features of each and draw out those instances where initiatives interact.

It has a specific emphasis on further education,technician skills and apprenticeships. The goal is to make recommendations based on an overview where interactions between initiatives could be improved. Attention is also drawn to opportunities that have so far been missed, to increase the availability of engineering talent to meet industry needs.

This paper summarises the key features of recent Government initiatives which impact engineering education and skills in England.

The report identifies the following key issues:

Professional Engineering Institutions need to use their unique position at the interface between education and employment, to uphold standards of personal competence as systems change. Their work should be based on providing guidance on overall need for skills. Importantly they must also adapt to offer standards for all Vocational Qualification levels as well as those that naturally fit the existing EngTech, IEng and CEng grades.

Apprenticeships need to focus not only on quality, but also on perceptions and awareness. They are an option for higher education, further education, and employment, not just to avoid becoming a NEET. The levy brings a welcome boost in resources, but this needs to drive change in behaviour, not just a change in funding mechanism. The use of UCAS to promote degree apprenticeships alongside other degree course options is an excellent example of progress. Further work on adult engagement, using schemes such as the Talent Retention Service, is essential. Broadening of the proposed uses of the levy away from solely training delivery would provide, for example, valuable resources in teacher training, work experience schemes and improving SME engagement.

The Industrial Strategy needs to ensure that it does indeed take a sectoral and regional approach. More analyses such as the Department for Transport skills strategy are needed, to focus investments on actual projects that deliver incremental improvements, which strengthen local links between education and employment.

In schools new approaches need to challenge the status barrier to following a technical rather than an academic route. The use of Gatsby Good Career Guidance as the framework for Ofsted assessment of schools; the change to a broader-based curriculum to 18 to increase exposure to science; and the portrayal of engineering as being of social benefit rather than an isolated specialism; will all be of value.

In further education teachers need to be supported to develop best-practice combinations of technical and pedagogical skills. As with schools, assessment of how colleges train and maintain the professional learning of their lecturers needs to be an explicit and critical part of Ofsted inspection. Appropriate resources (circa 5% of total salary bill) should be set aside for ensuring the quality and up-to-date relevance of their teaching.

In higher education teaching in schools needs to be seen as a much more common career choice for STEM graduates. Existing incentives for teacher training in shortage subjects need to be extended to offer a more credible option for graduates already in high demand by industry.


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