Later today, Theresa May will urge people to “throw away” the “outdated attitude” that university is the only desirable route for young people, and that going into vocational training “is something for other people’s children”.
In a speech in Derbyshire to launch a wide-ranging review into post-18 education, the Prime Minister will call for a parity of esteem between academic and technical options so businesses can “create a system of tertiary education that works for all our young people”.
This will mean “equality of access to an academic university education which is not dependent on your background, and it means a much greater focus on the technical alternatives too.”
May is expected to warn that while significant progress in education reform over recent years has succeeded in driving up school standards and improving the choice and quality of technical education, the current post-18 system is not working as well as it could be – for young people or for the country.
“For those young people who do not go on to academic study, the routes into further technical and vocational training today are hard to navigate, the standards across the sector are too varied and the funding available to support them is patchy,” the PM is expected to say.
She will add: “A country where your background does not define your future, and class distinctions are a thing of the past. Where a boy from a working-class home can become a High Court judge, thanks to a great state education. And where a girl from a private school can start a software business, thanks to a first-class technical education.”
Sheila Flavell, chief operating officer at FDM Group – and winner of the Woman of the Year awards at Information Age’s Women in IT Awards – says this announcement will be a welcome relief to UK businesses.
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“With UK businesses crying out for candidates with the latest digital skills, there has never been a better time to promote the need for vocational education and technical qualifications. It’s also time to recognise the benefits of lifelong learning, by supporting returner candidates who have taken a career break with proper training and support, enabling them to re-enter the world of work.”
“Building a more diverse workforce that encompasses the talents of people from all backgrounds is critical to the future of our economy. That’s why we need an education system that can enable the next generation to thrive in an increasingly digital world.”