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Science and Technology: Vocational Education

Question for Department for Education

UIN 125019, tabled on 18 February 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to promote the uptake of science and technology subjects to students in vocational education.

Answered on

28 February 2022

The department recognises that the demand for skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is growing, and we are proud to be encouraging more pupils into STEM at all key stages. We have put employers at the heart of the technical education system, asking them to set out the skills and knowledge that they need now and in the future. This has formed the basis of new occupational standards. So far, STEM employers, including those in construction, digital, engineering and manufacturing, and health and science sectors have developed 343 apprenticeships based on these standards.

We are introducing T Levels, boosting access to high quality technical education for thousands of young people, which are also based on the same occupational standards. T Levels in Digital, Construction and Health and Science are now being taught and T Levels in Engineering and Manufacturing will launch this September. A new campaign, ‘Get the Jump’, has been launched to help young people aged 14 to 19 to understand their education and training choices. More information on this can be found here: https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/explore-your-education-and-training-choices. T Levels are featured heavily in the campaign as an exciting new option for young people alongside apprenticeships, traineeships and Higher Technical Qualifications

Alongside this, we are investing up to £290 million to establish a comprehensive network of Institutes of Technology across England. These are unique collaborations between further education colleges, universities and employers specialising in delivering higher technical education and training in key STEM subjects such as cyber security, artificial intelligence, robotics, precision farming and health and life sciences. A key objective of the programme is to increase participation from under-represented groups to support the long-term STEM skills pipeline.

For those earlier on in their education, we are proud to have made substantial spending commitments to improve the teaching and uptake of STEM subjects in schools. We are offering a bursary worth £24,000 tax-free or a prestigious scholarship worth £26,000 tax-free to train to teach the highest priority subjects of chemistry, computing, mathematics and physics and a £15,000 tax-free bursary for design and technology. In line with the Gatsby Benchmarks for good career guidance, all schools are expected to provide at least one meaningful encounter with employers per pupil per year, with an emphasis on STEM employers.

We have improved the quality of technical awards. These non-GCSE qualifications are intended to equip 14-16 year olds with applied knowledge not usually acquired in general qualifications. They are intended to focus on a sector or occupational group and enable the development of knowledge as well as associated practical skills where appropriate.

Schools have access to the STEM Careers toolkit which provides ideas and practical suggestions on how STEM specific content might be used to meet the Gatsby Benchmarks. This includes useful resources, examples of good practice and sharing STEM careers resources, such as job profile examples, further study route information and labour market information with teachers.