Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, has today (5th June 2013) welcomed Labour’s pledge to boost the status of technical and vocational training in England by accrediting a string of “national centres of excellence” in key sectors such as engineering and IT.
The aim would be to raise the quality and profile of the country’s premier further education colleges to that of the leading universities and to focus on the needs of the economy, by tackling the skills gap and educational needs.
“We urgently need action to get our young people into work. In my constituency over 1,000 18-24 year olds are unemployed and a quarter of them have been for at least 12 months. Investment in skills has been slashed, subjects such as engineering undermined, work experience opportunities cut and independent careers advice ended.
“This is a key issue for Teesside. I am constantly told by chemical industry managers that the skilled process workforce is now very mature and there is a desperate need for better vocational training for process industry skills – an area which is rapidly developing – so that the local skill strengths are maintained for coming decades. Addressing this skills shortfall, on both the supply and demand sides, is critical to rebalancing our economy and ensuring our young people have the best opportunities available to obtain not just work – but a career. Colleges, employers and vocational training play a vital role in this, and it can be helped immensely by the kind of initiative that labour is proposing.
“David Cameron and Michael Gove have spent the last three years undermining technical education – damaging the quality of apprenticeships, downgrading the engineering diploma and narrowing the curriculum so skills are side-lined.
“To effectively rebalance our economy, we need a skills system which meets the needs of our economy and leaves no one behind. Driving up the standard of technical and vocational qualifications through ‘centres of excellence’ is one way we can achieve this.”