NAUGHTY OR NICE? – SKILLS POLICY 2012

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During this festive time of year we all have one question on our minds….will I find myself on Santa's naughty or nice list? This led me to thinking about some of things government has done in the skills area. So I have been making a list...(and checking it twice)...and here is what I think Santa's Skills Policy 2012 list might include…

NICE

1. Employer Ownership of Skills Pilot – Since the Employer Ownership of Skills Pilot was announced, we have seen 35 successful projects securing £68m worth of investment, which, together with £90m of the winner's own money will help them deliver the skills and training they need now and in the future. In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced that he will increase the pot by £90m, bringing the grand total up to £340m. The Pilot puts employers firmly in the driving seat to deliver the skills they need. Thats £340m of nice-ness!

2. University Technical Colleges (UTCs) – UTCs offer 14-19 year olds the opportunity to take a technically-oriented course of study. To date government has approved 34 UTCs across the country and what is even better is that nearly all of them have engineering specialisms – a great route for young people entering into the industry. So Lord Baker and his team go on the nice list - let's hope he can reach his target of 100 UTCs in the next five years.

3. Richard Review of Apprenticeships – This Review showed we need a new strategy for Apprenticeships to secure our economic future. Doug Richard's findings chimed with our own that a future strategy should be based on three key elements – raising our level of ambition, giving employers the power to set standards and creating a dynamic market in apprenticeship training where the funding follows the employer making the investment. Doug Richard and his Review Team make it on the nice list - we just need government to match his ambitions and take forward his recommendations.

4. Manufacturing and Engineering Apprenticeship numbers – this year we saw the number of manufacturing and engineering apprenticeship starts rise to 57,000 – over 8,000 more than the previous year. This surge is unsurprising given EEF's own data that reveal two-thirds of our members offer Apprenticeship programmes and of those three-quarters had manufacturing or engineering apprenticeship starts in the past 12 months. Government has done a lot on this area, and whilst there is still a way to go, we are putting apprenticeship numbers in the nice pile.

5. Numbers of A-level STEM entrants increases – 98,714 pupils choosing maths (up 3.3%), 34,509 choosing physics (up 5%) and 49,234 choosing chemistry (up 2.4%). Take up of STEM A-levels are likely to lead to more students then go onto study engineering at HE level – this is a trend we must maintain if we are to even attempt to meet the demand for engineers in the future.

NAUGHTY

1. Number of engineering degree applications fall – UCAS saw applications take a tumble this year including engineering which fell by 3%. Not great news, but given that across the board the numbers fell by around 8%, engineering didn't fare too badly. Even still it has to go into the naughty camp – especially when universities can now charge up to £9,000 a year for fees...naughty naughty!

2. Heseltine's single pot – When Heseltine proposed giving LEPs control for funding for skills our initial thoughts were - we have been here before (Learning and Skills Councils) and it didn't work – so why try again? Such a move would also place another layer of bureaucracy between the employer and the provider – this goes against Doug Richard's recommendations so for that reason Heseltine's skills funding thinking goes on the naughty list.

3. Direction of travel for careers advice – What do I want to be when I grow up? Life's big question and a difficult one to answer. What all young people need is quality and impartial careers advice, with a strong face-to-face element. What the government has done however is given complete control to schools with little direction as to how it should be delivered and offering face-to-face advice only to those aged 19 and over through the National Careers Service. Tut-tut.

4. Compulsory work experience at Key Stage 4 removed – Following Professor Wolf's recommendation compulsory work experience at Key Stage 4 has now been removed meaning there is no longer a compulsory element at any Key Stage. This is hugely disappointing for manufacturers (currently 7 in 10 offer work experience to young people), who are concerned that fewer schools will now come to them about offering valuable placements to their pupils. Professor Wolf made some great recommendations in her report but this one goes on the naughty list.

5. The Youth Contract – A £1bn package that tries to get young unemployed people into work. That is a whole lot of money to sort out a worrying problem. Whilst there are elements of the Youth Contract that we have welcomed including Apprenticeship opportunities and work experience placements, one part that the government has continued to try and sell to employers is the £2275 wage incentive. Yet our data suggests there is just no take up with less than 1% using the wage incentive scheme – something is obviously not right.

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Head of Education & Skills Policy

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