Hinds urges Britain to drop "snobby" attitude to technical education

Education Secretary Damian Hinds has said that Britain must drop its ‘snobby’ attitude to technical and vocational education or risk being left behind after Brexit.

Speaking to business leaders at an event in London on 6 December, Hinds marked the government's one year anniversary of its modern Industrial Strategy by setting out the latest T Level action plan, which outlines the next seven T Level programmes to be taught from 2021: Health, Healthcare Science, Science, Onsite Construction, Building Services Engineering, Digital Support and Services and Digital Business Services.

During his speech, Hinds argued that the default route and measure of success for young people should no longer just be an academic one, and unless Britain drops that mind-set it will never close the productivity gap with its European neighbours – an ambition that is more crucial as we leave the European Union.

The Education Secretary also set out his 10 year ambition to upgrade the nations’ skills so more young people have the same high quality training opportunities with clear pathways to skilled jobs as those in top performing technical education countries like Germany. He pointed out that just 65% of the working population in the UK have completed a qualification at A-level or equivalent. In Germany this figure rises to almost 90%. New figures published by the Department for Education reveal that by getting as many 25 year olds qualified to Level 3 as in Germany, around 86,000 people could earn on average an extra £2,270 a year.

He said: "As a nation I’m afraid we’ve been technical education snobs. We’ve revered the academic but treated vocational as second class - when we do it well, law, engineering, medicine - then we don’t even call it vocational.

"Why has this has been tolerated for so long? I think the reason is the “O.P.C” problem. For so many opinion formers, commentators and, yes, politicians: vocational courses are for ‘other people’s children’.

"Young people not on the A-level route have two years of government funded education when they turn 16. And all too often it’s time and money used to train them to a low level in a skill the economy doesn’t need.

"Today, Germany, France, the US – all produce over 25% more per hour than the UK. And, actually, this productivity gap with Germany and France first opened up in the late 1960s, further back still with the US. This gap matters. In terms of our public services – matching German productivity would allow government to spend tens of billions of pounds a year more."

The government is working with employers to introduce new T Levels from 2020 – the technical equivalent to A Levels – and to create more high quality apprenticeship opportunities.

UCAS points will now be awarded for new T Levels with each programme carrying the same UCAS points as three A Levels – so young people, parents and employers know they are as stretching as their academic equivalents and will act as a stepping stone to progress to the next level whether that is a degree, higher level technical training or an apprenticeship.