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August 2, 2013 / politicsbitesize

Earn while you learn

TomorrowsGrowthIn a report this week by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) the idea that the only way into a top job is by obtaining a degree was debunked.  In Tomorrow’s Growth the CBI Policy Director, Katja Hall, warned the UK that, ‘[it] needs to vastly increase the stock of workers with higher-level skills to drive long-term growth’.  She argues that, as a whole, society needs to rethink the idea that the A-levels and three-year-degree model is the only route into a good career. 

The report predicts that by 2020 nearly half of all employment will be in ‘highly-skilled’ roles and forewarns that a failure to close the chronic skills gaps in the UK will lead to the country falling behind our competitors.  It recommends advancing ‘earn-as-you-learn’ training and more business-designed degrees over and above traditional degree-based routes.

In the near future, the skills required by employees will be different to those required today and established degree courses may not meet the needs of key industries, such as manufacturing, construction, IT and engineering.  The CBI proposes that earn-as-you-learn schemes should be run alongside more traditional routes and that all courses should develop greater links with businesses.  It says that, ‘universities need to boost the number of employer-backed “sandwich” courses, which give students practical work experience or allow them to support their studies’.

The hike in tuition fees to £9,000 a year means that school leavers are becoming more astute when deciding what path to take and what skills will be needed in order to gain employment.  A change in understanding the skill sets required by employers and employees could result in more young people being encouraged to take technical and vocational courses.  For years the CBI has been calling for vocational courses to be given parity of esteem with academic routes, and with this report they expect that a shift in attitudes will begin.

Tomorrow’s Growth identifies some key changes that need to be made within the UK’s education system in order to ensure that universities and businesses can step up to the challenge. It argues that the challenge for the Government is to remove the barriers that currently exist in the system and society as a whole.

The Business Secretary, Mr Vince Cable, said the Government was investing heavily to boost the number of apprentices. He told the BBC that the Government was planning to introduce more than 40 new apprenticeship schemes across the country in a range of subjects from advanced manufacturing to space engineering, which would be ‘equivalent to getting a degree’.  He went on to say that he agreed with the CBI’s analysis, and suggested that ‘a credible alternative to university is needed to help young people get the skills the economy needs’.


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