Britain Looks to Reinvigorate Apprenticeships, Vocational Education


State schools in England will soon be required to spend as much time on vocational training as they do on academic subjects for students interested in landing an apprenticeship after their studies. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said that England's education system should "level the playing field" by offering students all the options available to them.

A new law will require the schools allow apprenticeship providers to advise and connect with young students to rub out an "outdated snobbery" against technical education. According to the BBC, the legislation would require schools to collaborate with training providers, university technical colleges and colleges to appraise students of all the opens open to them, including Higher and Degree-level apprenticeships. Ministers hope that the law will combat the stigma against non-academic career routes.

Tom McTague, a political editor for Independent, writes that education ministers believe that schools only recommend apprenticeships and other technical routes to the lowest-achieving students of any class, a tendency that "effectively creates a two-tier system of career advice." A recent survey conducted by Sutton Trust, an education think-tank, validates the ministers' suspicions. Findings show that 65% of teachers would not advise a student who qualifies for university education to pursue an apprenticeship.

Furthermore, according to Schools Week, three-quarters of British schools failed to promote vocational options equally to students. University Technical Colleges (UTCs), vocationally-oriented schools, begin accepting students at 14 but have struggled to fill enrollment places ,with some having only filled 12% of available seats. UTC leaders blame such low enrollment and interest on the difficulty of advertising to and connecting with young students before university.

Morgan said that, "For many young people going to university will be the right choice, and we are committed to continuing to expand access to higher education, but, for other young people, the technical education provided by apprenticeships will suit them better."

This effort is part of a larger campaign to expand apprenticeships in England. According to Stephen Exley at TES, the British government hopes to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. Additionally, the government recently convened an "expert panel" to develop Britain's technical and professional education system "on par with the best of the world."

To achieve these goals, Parliament recently unveiled a small tax on large company payrolls to fund the creation of apprenticeships. The 0.5% levy would generate over £3 billion a year that will be used to reinvigorate Britain's apprenticeship system.

Ministers argue that boosting the number of apprentices will increase national productivity, which lags behind other developed economies. The amount UK businesses have invested in students' professional training has fallen precipitously over the past 20 years. Firms jockeying for government contracts valued at more than £10 million must show that they have a "reasonable proportion of apprentices" to secure a contract.

In her announcement, Morgan lamented that British schools must be compelled by law to provide students with information on technical professions, hoping that schools on their own accord would seek to advise students about the multiplicity of existing career paths:

"This really shouldn't be necessary, but the truth is some schools are still stuck in the mindset created by the last Labour government that going to university is all that matters."

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