The TUC submission to the BIS consultation on developing a dual mandate for adult vocational education supports the overall aim of expanding higher level vocational education but highlights a number of major concerns with the means of achieving this end. It also questions the policy proposals in the context of the government’s wider policy framework for FE and skills, above all the unprecedented cuts in FE funding.
The TUC submission includes two sets of recommendations. The first set relate to the urgent need to address the deep cuts to government spending on FE and skills and the long-term decline in employer investment. On this, the TUC recommends that the government should draw a line under any further cuts to funding of FE and skills over the current Parliament and give a clear commitment not to extend the FE loan system as proposed in the consultation paper issued last year. As a matter of urgency it should also review the most effective regulatory measures that could be introduced to drive up employer investment in training and skills.
The submission also highlights a number of concerns with the policy aim of explicitly distinguishing between “vocational education for the workplace with a focus on higher level professional and technical skills” and “second chances for those who have not succeeded in the school system.” For example, some of the proposals would have major implications for FE colleges, which currently support both higher level vocational courses and a wide range of other courses and qualifications aimed at all learners and employers in the local community. There are also related concerns that the proposed “dual mandate” approach could limit progression pathways for many individual learners.