Report: Technicians and Progression

Technicians and Progression identifies changes the UK needs to make to its education and skills system to remain globally competitive. The report is the result of a six month parliamentary inquiry, chaired by Professor Alison Halstead.

The report’s recommendations are directed at a range of actors in the skills sector including government departments, professional bodies, colleges and employers. The inquiry’s timing coincides with the next phase of the HMT and BIS growth review, which will be published in autumn 2011.

Rebalancing our economy: the importance of technicians

The Government has set out its plan to rebalance our economy to become more production and export-led. But this requires a corresponding rebalancing of our education and training system. We need a workforce equipped with the right level and type of skills if UK companies involved in engineering, design and advanced manufacturing are to remain competitive and contribute to economic growth. We need more technicians.  

An analysis of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) qualifications commissioned for our report, found that the English further education and skills sector is not producing enough technicians. A plan for growth requires a new strategic focus on technician education and training - a plan for technicians, a cross-departmental government strategy for STEM.


More flexible education and training

We need technician training to be flexible so that it can be delivered by a range of providers, throughout an individual’s career. The report calls for changes to the qualification development system, so that those who are using and paying for training, including learners, teachers and  employers, are more involved in its design. 

The Commission also recommends steps to allow and encourage further education colleges to offer vocationally oriented degrees. The Commission calls for universities to improve their offer to business by providing more bespoke higher-level training for employees. This would provide new sources of income for universities and new opportunities for individuals to pursue higher level learning without leaving the workplace.


Access to the professions 

The report explores how the professions can be opened up to those with vocational qualifications. The government should support the establishment of a new technical pathway to the professions as a worthwhile alternative to university education. Meanwhile, professional bodies should play a greater role in the development of qualifications and apprenticeships. The Commission envisages a system where a 14-year-old studying an engineering diploma in school is already on the first rung of a ladder leading to chartered engineer status.


Funding: a new funding body and Lifelong Learning Accounts

The report finds that the split between the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Skills Funding Agency creates unnecessary obstacles for employers wanting to provide their employees with technician and higher level training. It recommends that that the Government establish a single funding agency for post-compulsory education – merging the Higher Education Funding Council for England with the Skills Funding Agency. 

The Commission also recommends that the government look at re-introducing financial Learner Accounts as a way of stimulating more non-government investment in training and making the education system truly driven by learners and employers.

If you have any questions about this report, or any of the Skills Commission's research, please don't hesitate to contact us.