It is evident that the recent election was not so much about core issues, such as skills, but more about matters that impact less on the lives of the average UK citizen.
Hopefully, now it is over, we can get back to business and the real education debate, which isn’t about school dinners or university places, but vocational education and training – giving people the skills they need to be effective in the workplace.
The previous administration took positive steps in this regard by delivering a strong and cohesive vocational skills strategy. This provides a strong foundation for a focus on excellence in vocational skills and learning for work, which, together with increased investment, is widely recognised as being essential in strengthening our economy and the competitiveness of the UK industry globally.
There is, however, still some way to go in terms of changing negative perceptions of vocational skills within the wider community, where the traditional university system is perceived as the learning route of choice.
With around 50% of young adults going on to university, we need to ask ourselves: what are the other half doing? And, more specifically, how can we help the rest of them to develop their skills and find a career path where vocational skills are a valued, quality option?
In this year’s WorldSkills Competition, we are taking 18 young people to Finland to pit their skills against 700 other competitors representing 40 countries. These young people represent the best in their sector, with skills they could not have developed without the full support of their employer.
We would like to issue a challenge to all businesses to play their part in putting vocational training on the map. We and the Sector Skills Councils need their support in driving the skills agenda forward and ensuring that vocational training delivers the skills that they and UK plc need.
Finally, we hope that in this third term of Labour government, the focus will remain firmly on skills, and that it will waste no time in getting down to the business at hand.
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