Labour Party leader Ed Miliband is proposing a change to the UK educational system to include new technical degrees, called "earn-while-you-learn degrees" for the "forgotten 50%" of Britain's youth who do not follow the traditional college path. The proposed system would allow students to learn in a classroom setting as well as in the workplace.
"For too long, governments have believed there is only one way to success through education, which is to follow the conventional academic route: to do General Certificates of Secondary Education, A-levels, a traditional academic subject at university and then on to career," the Labour leader said.
"But we know that conventional academic route doesn't work for everyone."
According to Graeme Paton of The Daily Telegraph, the degrees, already in place in other European countries such as Germany, are aimed at those people who have already finished apprenticeships and want to continue down that path.
"Our research has shown that 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 in England."
The plan calls for universities to work with businesses to create a "gold standard" of courses that would have the equivalent status of a Bachelor of Arts degree in the US.
The issue is of current importance in the area, as many of the laborers who have experience are due to retire soon. Unless a new generation is brought in to study these skills, they could be lost.
While more than half of students age 11-16 said they would like to pursue becoming an apprentice, a study from the Sutton Trust charity found that 65% of teachers would not advise students to consider the option. Sean Coughlan for the BBC writes that according to head teachers' leader Brian Lightman, there is a need for academic and vocational degrees to be "equally accepted by employers and offer good job prospects."
Miliband said the proposed degrees would be the priority of the Labour Party if it takes power next year. He claims the idea has not had a sense of urgency in the past because it was not a priority of the government. Miliband plans to change that, writes Robert Gibson for The Journal.
"This is a new direction for our country, equal status for vocational qualifications from school to university and beyond, equipping our young people with the skills they need and providing our country with a reason to be confident for the future so we can compete with the very best economies in the world in a race to the top," he said.
The Labour Party also plans to create a technical baccalaureate for 16-19 year olds, as well as requiring lecturers in further education programs to be qualified to teach.