BLOG: Higher Ambitions (Day 2 sessions)

Ian Nash on the second day of the Sutton Trust-Pearson Higher Ambitions Summit, including keynote speeches from Professor Alison Wolf and Sir Michael Barber.

Leading educationists at the Higher Ambitions Summit called for a cross-party political consensus aimed at creating a world-class apprenticeship system they say has eluded the UK for at least four decades.

Alison Wolf, Professor of Public Sector Management at King’s College, London, said the priority had to start by addressing labour market needs: “It’s the labour market context in which policy is being made and will determine what will be achieved. The single most important thing going on in education now is the apprenticeship reform programme. It is so important that it’s not constantly changed and as a chance to bed down.”

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Ed Miliband: Tackling UK’s Skills Shortage ‘Urgent’ Priority for Labour – International Business Times

It is “absolutely within the Labour Party’s grasp” to tackle the UK’s skills shortage in the short-term if it is voted into power at the 2015 General Election, according to Ed Miliband.

The Labour Party leader, speaking at the Sutton Trust and Pearson Higher Ambitions Summit, told IBTimes UK that there are things his prospective government could immediately do to address the UK’s skills gap.

“Better qualifications for young people, improve vocational qualifications for our young people, work with employers to make sure that the training is available for our young people,” he said. “I think there’s huge amounts that we can be doing.

“I believe it’s absolutely within our grasps to make quick progress on this by, for example, having a gold standard vocational, you are going to start to give employers the qualified people they need.

“By giving employers more control over the money that’s spent on training you can start to address those skills shortages in the absolute short-term.”

Read the full story by Ian Silvera here

Ofqual to increase focus on vocational qualifications – TES

Ofqual is set to increase its focus on vocational qualifications, it was revealed today.

Jeremy Benson, director of policy at the regulator, told a summit in London that it would shift its focus away from academic qualifications. “We know Ofqual has a role to play in improving the quality of vocational education,” he said.

“We need our regulatory arrangements to drive qualifications to have a purpose and to be fit for that purpose. Ofqual has focused on GCSEs and A-levels in recent years and rightly so, but we are now ramping up our focus on vocational qualifications.”

Mr Benson, speaking at the Pearson Sutton Trust summit on apprenticeships and vocational education, said there would be some significant changes to how vocational qualifications are regulated, with more details to be set out over the next few weeks.

Read the full story from Darren Evans here

Labour leader’s plan to put “technical degrees” in vocational subjects should reflect the courses already being delivered – Politics Home

Labour leader Ed Miliband’s plan to put “technical degrees” in vocational subjects should reflect the courses already being delivered, according to a leading higher education think tank.

Miliband said if his party wins the next election it will ensure “equal status for vocational qualifications from school to university and beyond”.

University think-tank million+ said that the next government should build on the work that universities are already doing to deliver professionally and technically focused courses…..

…..Conor Ryan, Director of Research at the Sutton Trust said: “In other European countries, particularly in Germany and Switzerland, three-year, good-quality apprenticeships are a serious option for all young people. Despite some recent improvements, we still have a mountain to climb to match ambitions.”

Read the full story here

Labour launches ‘technical degrees’ policy – Times Higher Education

These new qualifications will be the party’s “priority” when expanding university places if it wins power next year, although it is not yet clear exactly how it will incentivise universities to offer the new courses.

Speaking this morning, Labour leader Ed Miliband explained that the degrees would be jointly designed by universities and businesses and would have equal status to more “academic” degrees.

At a conference organised by educational charity the Sutton Trust, Mr Miliband said he was “proud” of the previous Labour government’s record of expanding higher education but added: “The conventional academic route doesn’t work for everyone.”

“Our priority for the expansion of universities will be on technical degrees,” he said, mentioning design, engineering and information and communications technology as subjects that could feature in the new qualifications.

Read the full story by Jack Grove and David Matthews here

Leading academic sends Miliband back to classroom over ‘confusing’ technical degree plan – FE Week

Professor Alison Wolf has issued a stinging attack on Labour leader Ed Miliband’s plans to “revolutionise learning and training” by introducing technical degrees at university.

The Kings College London academic (pictured), whose government-commissioned review of vocational education for 14 to 19-year-olds was published in early 2011, branded the idea “confusing,” while Skills Minister Matthew Hancock labelled it “odd” and accused the Opposition leader of a lack of awareness of the FE sector.

Mr Miliband unveiled his plans in a speech at the Higher Ambitions vocational education summit, organied by the Sutton Trust, in London’s  Institution of Civil Engineers today.

He said the technical degree would be for “the forgotten 50 per cent who do not currently go to university”.

Read the full story by Rebecca Cooney here

BLOG: Higher Ambitions Summit (afternoon sessions)

More than 200 further education colleges and universities are already offering technical degrees, according to Matthew Hancock, Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise, in what he described as “the biggest skills revolution for decades.”

Addressing the Sutton Trust-Pearson Higher Ambitions Summit, he insisted that the reforms proposed by Ed Miliband, Leader of the Opposition, for new technical degrees were already taking shape as part of the Coalition Government reforms including new Technical Awards and a Tech Bacc.

Hancock described the reforms as central to a concerted effort to cut youth unemployment which had risen by 40% to over one million in the decade from 2004 and had seen its first drop, by 135,000 over the past year. “The number of young people claiming benefits has also fallen for 23 successive months,” he stated.

In a summit session on employer engagement and the pursuit of real apprenticeships for all, there were widespread appeals for a flexible approach to the level of support and time spend completing an apprenticeship. The Summit heard of the German experience from Andrea Bodner, Training Manager of Webasto, that two and a half to three years was standard. But employers with successful track records in the UK argued that they could be completed in anything from 12 months to four years, depending on the level of previous skills education and training.

Clare Paul, Head of Entry Level Talent at the BBC described how the corporation had shifted focus from graduate entry  to apprenticeships with remarkable success at every level to higher apprentices. While degree level apprenticeships took at least three years, creative apprenticeships could be completed in one year, she said. “It depends on the complexity of the job and the nature of the environment.”

Frank McLoughlin, Principal of City and Islington College, said the problem of understanding the time required stemmed from the way the view of apprenticeships had been distorted, “The problem is that apprenticeships became a course, not a job as it used to be seen in the 1970s. The key point is that it should be seen as a job with full training and expectation that you will stay in employment afterwards.”

The general concerns over training and apprenticeships were voiced by Andreas Schleicher, Director  of Education and Skills at the OECD, who said it was very hard to get a good vocational skills system. “Degrees don’t mean everything. The UK has unemployed graduates while employers can’t find the skills they need. We need people for what they can do rather than what they know. How do you make skills everybody’s business? Who benefits and who pays?”

Andreas Schleicher went on to stress the importance of engaging a wide range of employers, particularly in relation to careers guidance; “You need people from the real world providing careers guidance.

“You need an independent and comprehensive guidance profession not based in schools. Such information would help people make decisions.  The need is to develop the skills of the whole population, not just concentrating on schools and young people. We are moving from stacking up qualifications to skills-orientate learning often gained in the workplace but not accounted for in qualifications.”

BLOG: Higher Ambitions Summit (morning sessions)

Ed Miliband, Leader of the Opposition, unveiled plans for new “Gold Standard” technical degrees for the “forgotten 50%” of young people when he addressed the Sutton Trust-Pearson Higher Ambition Summit.

Technical BAs will be created jointly by universities and industry, he said, “For the first time, people will be able to progress further, earn while they learn at university with a route to technical and professional employment.”

Expansion would not be at the cost of academic degrees nor would a Labour Government restore the polytechnics to provide them. Instead they want as many universities as possible to come forward. “We will not make the policy mistake of splitting universities into two types.”

Stressing the need for routes to academic and vocational excellence of equal merit, he said: “Do we want one nation where everybody has opportunities or two national where half don’t? For too long we have believed there is only one route to success.” There should also be a direct route from apprenticeships to university or there would not be equal status for vocational education.

A Labour Government would give greater control over the choice of courses locally to Local Enterprise Partnerships by devolving money down from central government and giving greater control to business.

Miliband’s proposal for a BA, which effectively leads on from the proposed Labour Tech Bacc, was welcomed by participants but they cautioned him not to see it as a route exclusively for the forgotten 50%. Too many young people were already on inappropriate academic courses and would do far better doing technical degrees, they said.

He was also urged not to lose sight of existing strong vocational routes. Frank McLoughlin, Principal of City and Islington College and chair of the recent national inquiry into adult vocational education, said: “At our colleges last year we sent 1,408 people to university from vocational programmes, particularly BTEC.”

The strength of BTEC was often underplayed, according to Rod Bristow, President of Pearson. “As entry to A-level is beginning to flat-line, entry to BTECs continue to grow,” he said. Nor should the value of the BTEC National Diploma – the equivalent of a Foundation Degree – be underestimated. He spoke of a need to look closely at operations in countries such as Singapore which had created a series of “bridges and ladders” across the vocational and academic pathways at various stages in a person’s life.

David Hall, Acting Chairman of the Sutton Trust, also reminded people of the need to win teachers over. Pointing to the latest Ipsos MORI survey for the Trust, he said: “More than half of young people say they are interested in considering an apprenticeships rather than university if it is in a job they want to do, but only a third say their teachers have discussed it with them.”

Similar research for the Sutton Trust also showed a high prejudice against the vocational route over degrees .

Higher Apprenticeships better for jobs then university – New Polling for Sutton Trust/Pearson

Significant public support for degree-level apprenticeships as an alternative to traditional university degrees is revealed in new polling to be presented to delegates today at an international summit on apprenticeships and vocational education organised by the Sutton Trust in partnership with Pearson.

One third (34%) of people say a degree-level apprenticeship would be better for somebody’s future career prospects than a university degree, while two in ten (21%) think a traditional degree would be better. The new poll of 1,728 adults aged 16-25 in England by Ipsos MORI showed that a further third of people (33%) feel both are equally valuable.

The summit will be opened this morning by the Leader of the Opposition, Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP and will be addressed by the Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise, Matthew Hancock MP.

Other polling to be presented to delegates attending the Higher Ambitions summit in London shows that:

•         More than half of young people (55%) aged 11-16 say they would be interested in an apprenticeship  rather than going to university if it was available in a job they wanted to do, but only 30% say that their teachers have ever discussed the idea of apprenticeships with them at school. (Ipsos MORI, 11-16 year-olds)

•         Qualitative research carried out amongst 14-16 year olds found that they reported very few conversations about post-16 options with teachers, who they felt were more concerned with current qualifications. (Britain Thinks)

•         Only 26% of teachers think (to a great or some extent) there are enough apprenticeships at A level standard or higher available. 65% said they would rarely or never advise a high-achieving student to consider an apprenticeship.  (NFER Teacher Omnibus)

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Miliband to woo firms by training better graduates – City A.M.

Labour will today announce plans to help businesses recruit and retain trained graduates, with new technical degrees backed by some of the UK’s biggest companies.

The party’s leader Ed Miliband will give a speech setting out the policy, which would see the new degrees developed in conjunction with businesses and universities, to meet the needs of the growing UK economy.

“I am clear that the priority for expansion of university places must be based on assessment of what Britain, our young people and our businesses need in the future when we will compete with the rest of the world on quality, innovation, science and skills,” Miliband is expected to say.

“This is a new direction for our country,” he will add at a summit organised by the Sutton Trust.

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