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Bridging the vocational skills gap: What the politicians say

Spokespeople from the Conservative government, Labour and the Liberal Democrats give their parties' views on vocational skills

A Department for Education spokesperson says:

“Building a skilled workforce is a priority for this government, which is why we are investing heavily in things like apprenticeships and technical education.

"The Post-16 Skills Plan, published in July 2016, formed the government’s response to the recommendations made by the Independent Panel on Technical Education chaired by Lord Sainsbury. The Plan confirmed the government’s acceptance of all 34 of the recommendations to improve technical education.

"The Budget on 8 March announced funding of more than £500 million per year to increase the hours of technical education learning and introduce significant work placements. In January 2017 we committed £170 million of capital funding to create Institutes of Technologies (IoTs) in all regions. We will launch a call for proposals to establish IoTs later this year.

"Through the apprenticeship levy £2.5 billion will be invested by 2019-20 – double the amount spent in 2010-11. Our Skills Plan also sets out how we plan to continue improving the technical education system so young people have clear routes into skilled trades.

"And with a total of £670 million for new T-levels and prestigious new IoTs we are truly investing in the skills Britain needs.”

Liberal Democrat shadow business secretary Chris Fox says:

“For too long the UK has failed to equip its workforce with the skills needed to succeed in the job market and compete in the global economy. This is evident when we compare ourselves to our European neighbours, most of whom rank higher than the UK when it comes to technical and vocational skills. This gap goes some way in explaining why the UK has suffered from lower levels of productivity than other industrial economies, and why low-paid, insecure work has expanded so rapidly in recent years.

"The Liberal Democrats have a clear plan to equip the UK with a skills base tailored to the 21st century. We will seek to expand all forms of higher vocational training, create individual accounts to fund mature adult learning and training, develop a new sector-led national skills strategy, and accelerate the devolution of skills policy to local authorities.

"Furthermore, we will build on our achievements in government by doubling the number of businesses offering apprenticeships, and extending apprenticeships to under-represented groups and new sectors such as the digital and creative industries. It is time that those pursuing technical training and non-university qualifications get the level of support and esteem they deserve.”

A Labour spokesperson says:

“The skills gap should be a matter of great concern to this government, yet they have no meaningful plans to give both students and those already in work the skills they need. With the combined pressures of our exit from the EU, the decline of old industries and the rise of new ones, and increasing automation, it will be imperative that government plays a role in giving workers and young people across the country the skills they need now and for the future.

"This is why Labour’s manifesto outlined a wide range of measures to deliver a National Education Service. This included making further education free at the point of use for all those who need it, and ring-fencing funding from the apprenticeship levy to support SMEs in delivering apprenticeships.”

Further reading

Vocational skills gaps – time for education reform?