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Raising productivity by improving higher technical education: Tackling the Level 4 and Level 5 conundrum

  • 16 July 2015
  • By Scott Kelly
  • HEPI number Occasional Paper 11

England and Wales lag behind competitor nations in the proportion of people with higher technical skills. In this pamphlet, Scott Kelly proposes three overarching reforms to ensure employers have access to the skills they need.

  1. There should be a well-defined set of institutions where the core mission is to deliver technical and professional qualifications.
  2. Work-oriented qualifications at higher levels should be validated and funded by the same processes.
  3. Public policy should acknowledge and address the barriers to employer engagement.

Public spending on further education, skills and vocational training is under threat but the proposals outlined here would strengthen the sector to the benefit of employers, the economy and, most importantly, learners.

1 comment

  1. Abel Nyamapfene says:

    This is a useful report, and the insights from Switzerland are particularly illuminating. I do feel, however, that a start on the suggestions in this report has already been made through the introduction of higher apprenticeships, which are, in the main, a collaborative partnership between sector skills councils, training providers (including existing universities and FEs), and individual employers. Currently we are faced with an ongoing skills shortage at all levels and an increased financial burden placed on students and parents through the introduction of tuition fees. This is an ideal scenario for introducing technical programmes where both training providers and employers actively participate in their development and delivery. The introduction of such programmes would help to drive more students into areas of skills shortage, and may actually lead to the situation where home students can stay at home, and go to work whilst studying for professional qualifications. This is less costly compared to the current case where students leave their families to study in distant universities, and where most of the learning is not directly linked to employer requirements. Such a change could actually revive both part-time educational provision and uptake of postgraduate programmes, both of which appear to be in terminal decline, at least on the home front. Hence, rather than focussing primarily on levels 4 and 5 and on only one type of educational provider, I would consider a root and branch review of professional and technical education and training across the whole educational landscape, including existing universities and FEs as well as the school system.

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