The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for technical education, the apprenticeships and skills minister has told the Chartered Institute for IT.
In an address to BCS, minister Gillian Keegan said: “This pandemic has accelerated the need for our technical education system to create a pipeline of skilled, productive workers who can support the future needs of the economy.”
Ms Keegan was speaking at the outset of the week-long BCS Virtual Festival of Digital Skills.
“We recognised that technical education was going to be the rocket fuel we needed to propel our economy, even before COVID-19,” Keegan continued. “We need to open up, celebrate and champion technical education…and we know that there is as much value in studying computer science as there is in studying classics.”
“We have to disrupt the way we think about technical education, we need to disrupt how we deliver this education, and we must do this urgently” – Gillian Keegan
The minister, who started her career as an apprentice at the age of 16, said she was aware businesses felt unable to take on apprentices because of the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. She referenced the government plan, launched on 1 September, to offer employers £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire aged under 25, and £1,500 for each newly recruited apprentice aged 25 and over, as support to help support training initiatives.
Keegan said the new digital T-levels and 20 new Institutes of Technology (IoTs), which are set to open in the next two years, would increase the number of young people studying digital qualifications. Education secretary Gavin Williamson promised £120m in October to fund eight new IoTs, which will join 12 projects already earmarked for completion by the Department for Education (DfE). Four of the 12 institutes opened last year, with the remainder to follow between 2020 and 2022.
Funding changes would, Keegan promised, enable further education colleges to access funding via the student finance system on the same terms as universities – this change would allow young people and mature learners to finance training with government-backed loans.
“We have to disrupt the way we think about technical education, we need to disrupt how we deliver this education, and we must do this urgently,” Keegan added.