We're also looking at a period of considerable change within our own FE sector, with the FE White paper and Level 3 consultation, a package of initiatives supporting people back into work and into training - theKickstart scheme for example - and the Lifetime Skills Guarantee for adults. As these changes progress, we rightly need to flex and adapt. However, it’s also important to take a moment to reflect on what’s working well already and the successes we have within our existing vocational education provision.
The continued importance of supporting key workers
By shining a light on the importance of our key workers, the events of 2020 have served to remind us just how important the FE sector is to our society. It has been a national moment for recognising and celebrating our health and social care professionals, for example, who remain central in supporting our communities through the pandemic. Many of the heroic individuals we were clapping for each week this Spring will have taken a vocational qualification and studied at a Further Education College.
The health and social care sector currently reports high volumes of hard-to-fill vacancies, as well as skills gaps among the existing workforce, with over 220,000 jobs currently available in the UK. Students taking health and social care qualifications are highly in demand, and our job to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to access careers in the sector (and other keyworker industries such as engineering and construction) is more important than ever.
Responding to demand from new and transforming industries
In recent times, we have seen a number of industries decline while newer sectors have sprung up or grown. FE and career focused education has always responded with a talent and skills strategy to support the evolving needs of employers, and we'll need to be as nimble as ever to serve these emerging industries. Our BTECs, as an example, are over 30 years old, having flexed and adapted to changing times over three decades. This year we launched a new BTEC in Esports, a major step forward in supporting careers in the growing esports industry, projected to generate revenues of over £1 billion this year. Other shifts are being seen in retail, education, renewables, Agri-Tech, infrastructure to name but a few.
The importance of choice for learners
Vocational and technical skills will be crucial in supporting our economy in the post COVID-19 period - supporting both young people and adults with the learning and skills they need to enter new and evolving industries and careers.
There needs to be the choice of qualifications and courses available which supply the skills that are required by employers – and in the UK we already have this with a number of effective pathways such as A levels, Technical and Vocational (including Pearson’s BTECs) and work-based provision, including Apprenticeships. The introduction of T Levels will add another level of occupational choice for 16-18-year olds.
This blog first appeared on FE News