Higher technical education (HTE) at Levels 4 and 5 (equivalent to the first two years of an UK honours degree) already plays a vital role in supplying the UK’s labour market with a highly skilled workforce. However, it could do more.
It is unfortunate that these qualifications are often underutilized by many – with a historic decline attributed to several factors, including the prevalence of the three year degree thanks to the removal of the HE student number cap and the introduction of tuition fees.
There is a driving force for change – exacerbated in its need by the current pandemic – an urgent demand from industry for a skilled labour force, and from individuals to upskill or reskill. Current government reforms of higher technical provision can help support this.
The COVID-19 pandemic has, if anything, accelerated this intended change in mindset. Industries have become more aware of workforce skills’ gaps, while citizens have come to terms with the need to be skilled in relevant areas. Employability, resilience and adaptability to change have never been more applicable.
The review, announced in October 2017, proposes change to create a clearer, demand-led system and one that is attractive to learners, employers and providers alike. And this forms part of the government’s broader plans to support a post-COVID-19, post-Brexit economy. New measures include the Lifetime Skills Guarantee giving “adults the chance to take free college courses valued by employers, supporting people to train into better jobs” and flexible loans allowing people to space out their higher education study, taking smaller, relevant, bite size modules of study, with the ability to transfer credits.
We cannot, alas, save every job. What we can do is give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs.
Pearson Higher National qualifications have a significant history of delivering higher level technical and professional skills, and have been developed to reflect the increasing need for high quality professional and technical pathways at Level 4 (Higher National Certificate - HNC) and Level 5 (Higher National Diploma - HND).
First offered in 1921, the qualifications are on the verge of turning 100 years, and cover 24 sectors, including Engineering, Computing, Construction and Health and Science. Pearson Higher Nationals are designed and validated in collaboration with employers to ensure alignment with recognised professional standards. They are taught at universities, Further Education Colleges, training providers as part of a higher apprenticeship, and direct by employers.
the economic case for studying these [Higher Technical] qualifications is inarguable.
In developing the post 18 education landscape it is important that a cohesive strategy is developed, which both allows learners to acquire the higher technical skills required by employers and enables progression to higher level study.
It is important to learners, education and industry to recognise that higher technical qualifications can, and should, serve more than one purpose. They prepare graduates for the world of work, but can also act as a rung on the ladder of learning towards more advanced education and training. This ultimately supports the up-skilling, & re-skilling of the current workforce and a commitment to lifelong learning.
[A] pointless nonsensical gulf that’s been fixed for more than 100 years between the so-called academic and so-called practical side of education. Everything is ultimately a skill.
Pearson welcomes the investment and focus on higher technical education, such as Higher Nationals, to ensure that the Higher Technical Education space can be better utilised to drive economic growth and support student employment and progression.
In our view one of the most important aspects which we need to focus on is the visibility and profile of higher technical education as a valid choice for all students of all ages. There needs to be a concerted effort to make learners aware of its parity with other forms of higher education, and the economic and personal progression value that Higher Technical Education can bring to the individual.
As education and industry collaborate more, there is a growing shared responsibility for education and employers to collaborate to provide industry with graduates who add value to the modern workforce. Indeed, the onus will be on learners to make the right career decisions to make themselves employable. This will involve developing the skills that industry desires, through qualifications that add value.