Ian Godden the Chairman of ADS, is right to draw our attention to the risk of a possible demise of some of the UK’s economic jewels such as aerospace, if targeted investment in skills development from Government were to dry out.
However, our further education sector’s capacity and capability to deliver education and training in newly emerged technology areas such as composite materials and low carbon is very limited. This is hampered by the bureaucracy and significant time lag associated with curriculum development in technical subjects, which often suffers from lack of innovation and underpinning resources together with the limited training of teachers and trainers in newly emerged technologies. This is further compounded by the lack of horizon scanning activities that truly assesses and interprets what the market needs in terms of skills, for now and in the future. Unfortunately, public funding models do not ‘incentivise’ or support the development of strategic and sustained relationships between industry and the further education sector. The funding models have tended to encourage short-termism and the delivery of outputs rather than outcomes. In fact, the ‘bottom’ has also fallen out of the vocational route in science, engineering and technology related disciplines with learner numbers falling, sometimes by as much as 60%, at technician level.
There is a great opportunity for the UK to reinvent and position itself as a global leader in advanced manufacturing and other new economic sectors of growth, such as green and biotechnologies. But to achieve this, a fundamental re-think on how our technical education and training is developed, delivered and continuously updated, needs to happen.