Technical T-Level Qualifications
It is possible that many people, focusing more on the financial side of the report, missed the important education announcement in Wednesday`s budget. What the Chancellor Philip Hammond declared was, according to a treasury source, `the most ambitious post-16 education reform since the introduction of A-levels 70 years ago.`
Mr Hammond unveiled new `world class routes` - qualifications which will be equal to A-Levels, but specifically designed to benefit those entering the job market. In simple terms, these proposals state that the number of technical qualifications (currently approximating an astounding 13,000) will be streamlined down to a mere 15. It is hoped this simplification, and codification of the practical, specific job related qualifications, will both encourage more students to take them up, and provide them with real skills for their profession of choice once they leave school.
The chancellor has spoken of a `productivity gap` standing between the UK, and other developed nations, both in Europe, and further afield. Speaking in the House of Commons last year Mr Hammond made the shocking statement that a UK worker takes five days to produce what a German worker can make in only four. Even this may be a generous ratio, as the Chancellor went on to say that The UK `lags behind` Germany and US productivity by 30%
`We lag behind the US and Germany by some 30 percentage points. But we also lag France by over 20 and Italy by 8,` the Chancellor went on to say - concluding these figures `have to change if we are to build an economy that works for everyone.`
The introduction of 15 new qualifications - T-levels - as they are being called, certainly seem to be germane the change the chancellor was speaking of. A major financial investment was also part of his new proposal: £500 million pounds a year will be allocated to ease the introduction of the new courses, and ensure they become a ongoing feature of the secondary school education system.
Specific details about the new T-Levels are currently scarce, but it is likely that engineering, construction, and manufacturing will be amongst the course offered. Courses focusing on business management are also possible, along with administration, hospitality and catering. Teenagers will be taught the fundamentals of actually running a business, managing staff, dealing with finances. These new courses certainly seem like a step in the right direction for the UK`s education system, especially with so many businesses complaining that school leavers are often completely lacking in any practical, work related skills.
Thanks to an economy that has grown quicker than was expected in the latter quarter of 2016, the Chancellor is expected to have access to an extra £12 billion; and it is expected some the funds will be used to attenuate losses inflicted on small firms by the rise in business rates. A large portion of this money is planned to be safeguarded, kept back just incase the economy suffers during the Brexit negotiations.
It seems the Chancellor intends to rise technical training, and practical job related skills, up to an equal level as University education. This certainly seems to be a laudable strategy: the UK has a chance to seize the Brexit opportunity, and become a stronger manufacturer. A source at the Treasury has said: `Now that we`re leaving Europe, we really need to up our game on this stuff. We cannot wait. We will soon be competing with every other country after Brexit.`
At the moment the UK`s productivity lags shamefully behind other developed nations; but with a workforce possessing more practical skills, this disappointing placement can hopefully be improved. The schedule is for the 15 new T-Levels to be offered from 2019.