The Skills Commission welcomes the timely amendment to the Technical and Further Education Bill which will see collaboration between local business, schools and colleges to ensure pupils benefit from knowledge of technical education qualifications and apprenticeships. This follows the recent launch of two key reports from the Commission recommending better Information Advice and Guidance (IAG) and for educational centres to become skills hubs with local businesses.
On 23rd February, Lord Baker (alongside Lord Adonis, Lord Storey and Baroness Morris of Yardley) tabled an amendment to the Technical and Further Education Bill which is currently passing through the Lords. The amendment now means that businesses will be allowed to go into schools to talk to pupils about their further education options beyond the usual higher education pathway.
Lord Baker of Dorking tabled an amendment to the Technical and Further Education Bill which now means that schools “must ensure that there is an opportunity for a range of education and training providers to access registered pupils during the relevant phase of their education for the purpose of informing them about approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships”.
Skills Commission Co-Chair, Barry Sheerman MP, said “We are delighted to see that the Skills Commission’s vital, independent, research is being recognised in this important bill. It is timely that as the apprenticeship levy is being introduced, the Lords have recognised that pupils need more careers advice and to understand the practicalities of business culture.”
Co-Chair, Dame Ruth Silver, said “The Skills Commission is calling for government and local authorities to ensure that devolution funding pushes education providers and employers to better serve learners, and support one another to respond to regional skills gaps which so badly need resolving. This amendment is a welcome indication that government is now taking this issue seriously. It is now up to the FE sector, schools and employers to work together to ensure all learners across the UK have the opportunity to access quality education and work.”
This amendment echoes two of the Skills Commission’s latest reports.
The Spotlight on… young people with below average academic attainment and the skills sector report researched Information Advice and Guidance (IAG) provided for school leavers at the age of 16.
There has been a significant increase in young people aged 17+ failing to reach the benchmark grades in English and maths, following policy changes mandating young people to retake GCSE maths and English, if they have not achieved a C or above at 16.
Only 26.9% of learners aged 17+ (34,486 of 128,201) who took GCSE English in 2016 got at least a C. This is down from 35.1% of the 97,163 learners aged 17+, who achieved a C or above in English in 2015. That means that 93,715 students aged 17+ failed to meet the benchmark grade in English. Figures are similar for the pass rate in maths GCSEs.
The Skills Commission says “The poor quality of the existing IAG is illustrated by a recent City & Guilds report which found that, when young people were asked how they had heard about their ideal job: 30% responded, ‘we learned about it in a class in school/college’; and, worryingly, only 14% replied saying ‘a careers advisor recommended it’.”
It recommends “To better support young people with below average academic attainment, DfE and BIS [not BEIS] must address the aggressive student recruitment and retention practices of schools and sixth-forms - learners must be made aware of all the different post-16 pathways available to them, including Apprenticeships.”
Further, Lord Baker’s amendment includes “details of premises or facilities to be provided to a person who is given access… beginning at the same time as the school year in which the majority of pupils in the pupil’s class attain the age of 13, and (b) ending with the expiry of the school year in which the majority of pupils in the pupil’s class attain the age of 18.”
The Going Places: innovation in further education and skills research inquiry report, launched by the Skills Commission in December 2016, notes that “By sharing the space, learners, particularly those not enrolled on apprenticeships, could get a better idea of the workplace through sustained interaction with business throughout their learning. Employers and providers would be less isolated from one another and could better understand one another’s language and culture enabling them to build stronger partnerships. There could also be opportunities for colleges to serve as incubator spaces, building on good practices developed in a number of providers.”
It recommends that “FE and skills providers should use their physical space and assets to become skills hubs for local businesses, and serve as incubators for their learners’ next career steps. This should be considered in the commissioning and design of future building projects.”
 City & Guilds (2015), ‘Great Expectations: Teenagers’ Career Aspirations Versus the Reality of the UK Jobs Market’, p.11, available at: http://www.cityandguilds.com/~/media/Documents/Courses-and-Quals/Apprent...