Labour, vocational education and skills

Labour has published its national policy forum response on education. There’s  a great deal  to be welcomed, but for some areas, most notably  post-16 and Further Education, proposals are  largely absent and where they are addressed, are scant and uniformed. See the following quote on vocational and technical education for example:

‘ The Open University told us that the UK suffers from a significant productivity gap that is in a large part driven by a skills gap where many people lack the basic, intermediate and advanced technical skills needed. The Commission believes this is partly due to the perception of technical education in society’ (p17)

I don’t know where the OU has got this from, or maybe it’s been take out of context.  But these days research findings show than rather than being short of skills,  more people are ‘over skilled’ and over qualified for the work they do.

This not to deny that  areas like construction may face specific problems, but,  as the government’s own findings show only around 1 in 10 vacancies are the result of skill shortages (affecting only 6% of employers). Also, where employers do report recruitment problems they are concerned as much with ‘generic’ as technical ability

Click to access ESS_2017_UK_Report_Controlled_v06.00.pdf

Recent trends show a increase in unskilled work generally requiring minimal education and a collapse of traditional ‘middle’ skilled employment, resulting in an ‘hourglass’ economy   – this is one of the main reasons for the failure of apprenticeships. The last thing we need is another round of vocational qualifications or ‘Tech-Levels’. It’s true, as Labour recognises, that many young people are turned off the ‘academic’ route, but the policy document gives no attention to  Michael Gove’s reforms of GCSEs and A-levels,  so a lot of work remains.

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