Skill-up the workforce of the future

Skill-up the workforce of the future

In its annual report, published this week, Ofsted said more apprenticeships are urgently needed to meet the needs of the economy.

This is something I have been calling on for years.

Apprenticeships are vital for the economy and also better fit the vast majority of students. We have become degree obsessed when most young people do not need to pursue a highly academic route.

In fact, encouraging more people to go to university has degraded the value of degrees because they are now seen as a rite of passage for half the school population.

The academic bell curve clearly shows that only about 25% of students have real talent in the academic realm. Perhaps it could be stretched to 30% but not 50%.

That means around 70-75% of pupils will benefit from a more vocationally orientated education and this will also help our economy. These students have abilities and talents in the technical and vocational field that we desperately need.

Germany has a more balanced approach in this respect – they send around 25-30% to university and the rest of the students follow a more vocationally orientated route.

I think we should allow children to diversify at around 13-14yrs as they do in Germany into their specialist route of education. By that age, they will know, as will their teachers, what their strengths are.

The German school system allows some to pursue the Gymnasium (academic) route and the rest follow vocational routes.

Whereas we currently force all students to pursue the academic route right through to 16. I think this is quite demoralising for many students who could be focusing on practical and technical skills at 14-16yrs with the requisite English and Maths skills still being a requirement.

This would be quite a radical reform but I think this is what is necessary. We are currently signalling that only the academic route is valued – even if it is not intended.

I hope with an influential body such as Ofsted now calling for change that the Government will take a long hard look at this very important issue.