Press release

Technical education at heart of modern Industrial Strategy

Prime Minister Theresa May will use her first regional Cabinet meeting to launch a modern Industrial Strategy for post-Brexit success.

  • overhaul of technical education to help level the playing field by providing a credible alternative to the academic route – including £170 million new government funding for prestigious Institutes of Technology

  • Prime Minister vows to tackle regional disparities in opportunity and prosperity

  • modern Industrial Strategy will help young people develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future

Prime Minister Theresa May will use her first regional Cabinet meeting on Monday (23 January) to launch a modern Industrial Strategy aimed at improving living standards, increasing the nation’s productivity and ensuring growth is shared across the whole UK.

On a visit in the north-west, the Prime Minister will outline the next steps in her ‘Plan for Britain’, telling Cabinet that the government must face up to and tackle ‘long tails’ of underperformance if we are to close the gap between the highest and lowest performing industries, places and individuals, and create a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

The Industrial Strategy will include plans for a radical overhaul of technical education to address its historic undervaluation in the UK and provide a credible alternative to the academic route for young people who choose not to go to university.

The strategy will set out plans to enable everyone to develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future.

Prime Minister Theresa May said:

Our modern Industrial Strategy is a critical part of our plan for post-Brexit Britain. As we leave the EU it will help us grasp the bigger prize: the chance to build that stronger, fairer Britain that stands tall in the world and is set up to succeed in the long-term. And it is a vital step towards building a country where prosperity is shared and there is genuine opportunity for all.

Our action will help ensure young people develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future. That means boosting technical education and ensuring we extend the same opportunity and respect we give university graduates to those people who pursue technical routes.

The green paper will put forward proposals including:

£170 million of new capital funding to establish prestigious Institutes of Technology

Responsible for delivering higher level technical education in STEM subjects across all regions. This is part of a new system of technical education which will replace thousands of qualifications, many of which are low quality, with just 15 core technical ‘routes’. The routes will be designed specifically to respond to the needs of industry and will help equip learners with the skills in demand from local employers.

Plans to use the successful free school model to expand the provision of specialist maths education across the country

Working with local partners including top university maths departments to spread new specialist ‘mathematics schools’ building on high-performing Exeter and Kings College London Mathematics Schools.

Action to tackle shortages of STEM skills

Including by further encouraging the growth of STEM subjects in higher education and exploring options to incentivise growth in the number of STEM graduates. We will also look at how we can address regional imbalances in the number of students progressing to higher-level STEM qualifications, with Professor Sir Adrian Smith’s review due to outline proposals shortly.

Testing ambitious new approaches to encourage lifelong learning

Particularly where industries are changing or in decline. As part of this, government will consider the role of centres of community learning and will review the option to introduce maintenance loans for higher technical education, of the kind government already supports in higher education.

As part of the new system of ‘technical education’, the government is also exploring a new UCAS-style way of searching and applying for courses in technical education, to give those considering the technical route clearer information and better support throughout the application process and create genuine parity of aspiration.

As well as helping to level the playing field for the half of young people who do not go to university, the plans due to be outlined in the green paper will also help to address regional disparities, with education and skills cited as one of the biggest determinants in the UK’s variations in productivity.

Government will also work with local areas to test new approaches to closing the skills gap, potentially including: improving pre-school education; new schemes to support the retention and attraction of graduates, and measures to increase the take up of apprenticeships.

The Prime Minister has put a commitment to building a stronger economy and a fairer society, underpinned by genuine economic and social reform, at the heart of her first 2 major speeches of the new year.

The modern Industrial Strategy, published on Monday (23 January), builds on that commitment by showing how we can seize the opportunities presented by Brexit to make fresh choices about how we shape our economy right through from research and innovation to global trade and inward investment.

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark said:

We are building a modern and comprehensive Industrial Strategy for the long term, which we are doing in partnership with businesses and workers across the country. We want to build on the UK’s significant strengths and excellence to shape our future economy.

The UK has some of the best universities in the world and our schools are improving, yet for too long technical education for school leavers has been neglected – with large differences in skill levels between regions. We must improve skills and opportunities so we can close the gap between the best people, places and businesses and the rest.

It is about making our country one of the most competitive places in the world to start and grow a business. We are inviting people throughout the UK to contribute to this work to create a high-skilled economy that works for everyone.

The government‘s green paper will set out proposals for discussion and consideration and invite views from a wide range of individuals, businesses and institutions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Update: the government’s green paper on building our Industrial Strategy is now published. Find out how to get involved in the consultation.

Published 21 January 2017