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Vocational Education

Question for Department for Education

UIN 133655, tabled on 6 January 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what progress his Department has made in (a) reducing the number of young people going to university, (b) increasing the number and quality of apprenticeships and (c) redirecting funding from Russel Group universities to providers of technical education.

Answered on

13 January 2021

Higher and further education are different routes on the same journey to skilled employment and both should be valued. It is vital that a fair and open post-16 education system offers genuine opportunity and levelling up, with equity of technical and academic routes.

We will therefore be establishing a high-quality system of higher technical education where learners and employers can have confidence in high-quality courses that provide the skills they need to succeed, whether they are taught in a further education college, a university, or an independent training provider.

We have also introduced employer-designed T Levels, which will boost access to high-quality technical education for thousands of young people so they can progress to the next level, whether that is getting a job, going on to further study or an apprenticeship. The first three T Levels are now being taught in 44 providers across the country, with further courses being introduced in more providers over the next three years.

Apprenticeships are a high-quality path to a skilled career, and we have been making reforms to drive up the quality of apprenticeships. The transition to employer-designed apprenticeship standards is driving up quality and delivering the skills that employers need. There are now over 590 employer-designed standards across a broad range of industries and levels, including 138 standards at degree-level, providing people of all backgrounds with a choice of high-value technical training alongside traditional academic routes. Starts at higher levels (4 and above) increased by nearly 10% to 82,500 in 2019/20, compared to 75,100 in 2018/19. To encourage employers to take on new apprentices following the COVID-19 outbreak we have introduced new financial incentives for employers - an extra £2,000 for each apprentice under 25 and £1,500 for apprentices over 25.

We have been increasing investment in technical education including up to £500 million a year once fully rolled out for T Levels and, starting this year, £2.5 billion (£3 billion when including Barnett funding for devolved administrations) in the National Skills Fund to deliver new opportunities to generations of adults who may have been previously left behind.

We are also investing £1.5 billion to upgrade the further education estate so that it has the buildings and facilities needed to deliver high quality technical education and we are planning to invest up to £290 million of capital funding to establish 20 Institutes of Technology. Every region in England will have access to one of these Institutes of Technology, which will be unique collaborations between further education colleges, universities and businesses offering higher technical education and training in key sectors such as digital, construction, advanced manufacturing, and engineering.