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Why a Plan for Growth needs a Plan for Technicians

Why a Plan for Growth needs a Plan for Technicians

 On 13th October, the Skills Commission launched a report exploring how the UK should create more technicians with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills. To rebalance the economy and create more jobs, UK employers urgently need such skills to compete globally in high-growth sectors.

 In the Chancellor’s 2011 budget speech, he called for a “Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers”. But where are these makers going to come from? The UK currently employs 1,069,000 technicians, only 3.7% of its workforce compared to an EU average of 5.3% [i]. Concurrently, China has increased its technicians seven fold over the past decade [ii].

 Considering that UK GDP growth was 0.1% in Q2 [iii], we urgently need to take advantage of new emerging markets andbecome more export-led. To do this, it is critical that the UK starts training more technicians, because at the moment, we’re not [iv].

 “Technicians and Progression” is the result of a six month parliamentary inquiry examining the role of university technical colleges, apprenticeships, further education colleges and universities in training technicians.

Professor Alison Halstead, Chair of the Skills Commission inquiry and Pro-Vice Chancellor at Aston University said:

“Technical education has long been the middle child of our education system.

Government and the education sector must start valuing, promoting and supporting our technician workforce. We need to send clear signals to learners that becoming a technician is not second best, but a first choice that leads to a challenging and rewarding career.

Today, I believe that for the first time we have the opportunity to develop a technical pathway through schools, colleges, universities and into the professions.

This report builds on the recommendations of the Wolf Review of Vocational Education, as well as the recent development of University Technical Colleges, and outlines how we can, and must, achieve a renaissance in technical education across the UK.”

Andy Palmer, Director of Education and Skills, BT said:

“This report highlights a critical issue for UK employers and employees alike. Technicians and STEM skills are vital for new growth markets such as IT, engineering and advanced manufacturing, and are key to creating new job opportunities. The Skills Commission’s recommendation for a cross-departmental strategy for STEM growth is one I urge the government to consider seriously”.

The resulting report of the Skills Commission’s inquiry, “Technicians and Progression”, makes recommendations to a broad range of actors on the skills stage, including Government departments (BIS [v] and DfE [vi]), employers, professional and sector bodies. For example, the report recommends that:

Technician registration should be promoted as an alternative route into higher level learning and the professions. For example, the Commission envisages a system where a 14-year old studying an engineering diploma in school is already on the first-rung of a ladder leading to chartered engineer status.

 Professional bodies should play a bigger role in the provision of technical and professional skills, and recognise work-based education and training.

The Government should re-introduce personal, financial Learner Accounts dedicated to an individual’s post-compulsory education. These could be contributed to by a range of parties (from employers to the state, to the individual themselves) and would be spent as the individual chose.

The Government should establish a single-funding agency for post-compulsory education, as employers currently find dealing with both the HEFCE [vii] and SFA [viii] cumbersome.

The Department for Education (DfE) and BIS should renew their focus upon developing skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and devise a cross-departmental strategy to address their provision

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