Chancellor Philip Hammond is to announce a £500 million a year investment in technical and vocational training in this week’s Budget.
Under the plans, which intend to tackle post-Brexit skills gaps, 16- to 19-year-olds on technical courses will receive 900 hours of training (a rise of more than 50%). This will include industry work placements of one to three months.
Reports also claim the current 13,000 options for technical qualifications will be stripped back to only 15 technical routes, tailored to the needs of businesses.
Students in further education and studying at technical institutions will also be eligible for maintenance grants to mirror academic courses.
The chancellor is expected to claim these changes will be “the most ambitious post-16 education reform since the introduction of A-levels 70 years ago”.
Skills shortages remain a major concern for organisations. The CBI’s latest annual Employment Trends survey found that ongoing skills gaps were the most commonly-cited threat to competitiveness for UK businesses (by 64%) and for a second year topped the list of worries for the future (by 58%).
Uncertainty over the availability of migrant labour post-Brexit is also fuelling business concerns, with future access to skilled migrants cited as a threat to competitiveness by 58% of respondents in the CBI’s survey.
The CBI welcomed the government’s announcement of a fresh cash injection into skills, with director-general Carolyn Fairbairn saying businesses would be “delighted”.
“Increasing the number of teaching hours for technical subjects is fundamental to delivering world-class training for our young people in every part of the UK,” she said.
“There has never been a more important time to address the UK’s skills shortages. Investment in skills by employers and the government, working together in partnership, are the key to giving young people the opportunities they need to succeed.”
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, also welcomed the news.
“For too long technical skills and education have been overlooked when investment in education is being considered; this announcement will make a significant and positive difference,” he said.
“Post-Brexit Britain will need more self-sufficiency in developing skills, and people will need the confidence, support and opportunities to adapt and change over 50-plus year careers. This announcement is a good down payment to help develop a new and better system over the next decade.”
The policy on vocational qualifications follows a review last year of technical education by Lord Sainsbury.
He said: "Targeted investment of this type makes economic sense - our international competitors recognised long ago that investing in technical education is essential to enhancing national productivity.
"But it is also essential if we are to equip people with the knowledge and skills they need to obtain rewarding and skilled employment in the future."