A World-class Workforce for World-class Skills: The case for a national institute for technical teaching and regional knowledge centres

Neil Bates FCGI

This is a timely and ripe report on an issue critical to the future of further education and skills in the UK: how to take seriously for success the modernisation of our system of technical education so that it stands side by side in excellence with the world’s best.

The story of Britain’s poor performance in technical and vocational education relative to other, comparable countries has too often been told. A ‘world class’ skills system has been an ambition of successive governments, which have adopted as an article of faith the link between high-level skills, improving productivity and economic growth.

Targets have been set, priorities changed and qualifications reformed. Yet, in all most every case, these interventions have fallen short, sometimes miserably so. Britain continues to lag well behind its competitors and near neighbours in terms of technical education outcomes, continuing professionalisation of its staff and productivity.

Too often, policy reforms have not been accompanied by the necessary resources and structure, or, indeed, the strategic and operational knowhow to make them a success. One of the most remarkable aspects of policy development over the past decade has been the persistence of government ambition for the sector despite round after round of debilitating budget cuts, long-term wage stagnation, short-sighted policymaking and a bruising, heavy-handed system of accountability.

Learners deserve the best and the people and places that serve them need to be terrifically well equipped themselves to deliver what they need, in terms of skills, knowledge, equipment and resources. Given the scale of the task at hand – and its urgency in a context in which we will have to rely more and more on our own homegrown talent and skills – asking more without investing more for is simply not a viable way forward.

Dame Ruth Silver
President, Further Education Trust for Leadership

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