COVID-19 has highlighted the crucial role of key workers, individuals who are likely to have followed a vocational pathway such as BTEC and acquired their valuable knowledge and skills from the FE sector.
Over the past few weeks and months, we’ve seen how these key workers have served their communities and protected economies, particularly those working in the public sector and especially in health and social care, the emergency services, the armed services, transportation, utilities and the supply and distribution of food. It is in these sectors where future job opportunities exist and where the demand for sector-based knowledge, skills and transferable skills is forecast to grow.
With around 950,000 new adult social care jobs needed by 2035, and the King’s Fund suggesting the NHS workforce gap could reach almost 250,000 by 2030, learners studying health and social care could have a bright future ahead of them. Today, there is a shortage of over 100,000 full-time equivalent staff in the NHS and a further 122,000 in adult social care.
The same is true for the engineering sector. The next generation of engineers will be crucial to meeting the Government’s plans to ‘Build Back Better’ and ‘level up’ the UK as we recover from the impact of Coronavirus on our economy. Experts forecast that around 203,000 people with engineering skills are needed every year and it will be these learners who will help build the next generation of hospitals, schools and roads. Many future jobs will also exist in the construction sector - around 168,500 construction jobs will be created by 2023 - and in public services, transportation and supply and logistics sectors.
The FE sector plays a vital role in preparing young people and adults for these careers and it is great to see its contribution and the value of the sector and vocational qualifications being more widely recognised and celebrated. BTECs are a vital route into the health and social care sector with 1 in 4 candidates accepted by nursing degree programmes having either a BTEC Level 3 National in Health and Social Care or Applied Science. They are also a vital route into the engineering sector with over 60,000 learners in the past three years completing a BTEC Level 3 National in Engineering and entering the workforce.
This renewed focus on from government on further education is vital, if we are to develop the key workers of tomorrow. At Pearson our focus will be on continuing to engage with the FE sector and employers to update our learning provision to prepare young people and adults with the knowledge and skills needed for the jobs of the future. And to ensure learning content is more accessible and flexible, so young people and adults can learn where they want and when they want, to make progress in their careers and in their lives.