The TUC has recently submitted evidence to the Public Bill Committee that is considering the Technical and Further Education Bill. This Bill is taking forward a number of reforms, including the development of the new technical education system recommended by an independent review chaired by Lord Sainsbury.
The TUC has welcomed the general thrust of the reforms, including developing an integrated apprenticeships and technical education system and extending the remit of the Institute for Apprenticeships so that it has responsibility for both apprenticeship and technical education standards.
In addition, the TUC has welcomed the following features of the proposed system:
- Flexibility that enables students to switch between academic and technical education pathways
- Tailored support for disabled students and those with special educational needs
- Ensuring adults can access the new technical education system to retrain or upskill
The TUC evidence also highlights three key challenges that need to be addressed in order to ensure that the proposed reforms successfully deliver a new system of high quality apprenticeships and technical education.
- Firstly, there is a need to give trade unions a central role in setting and monitoring quality standards in the evolving apprenticeship/technical education system as is common practice in many other European countries with high quality training systems.
- Secondly, if these reforms are to succeed, the government must back them up with serious investment in colleges and further education as recommended by the Sainsbury panel.
- Thirdly, it will be important to put in place safeguards to ensure that the work placements that technical education students engage in are of a high quality so that young people are not exploited and the apprenticeship system is not undermined