Higher Education and Skills Policy – The UVAC Agenda
1. Skills policy must encompass, further education, higher education, private sector and employer provision and focus on:
- ensuring individuals have the right skills when entering employment and the opportunity to develop the skills to maximise their potential in employment and throughout life
- ensuring employers are encouraged and supported to develop the skills of new and existing employees to maximise business performance
- ensuring individuals and employers have the skills needed to compete in the world economy
- reducing skills gaps and shortages at all levels i.e. craft, technician, managerial and professional on the basis of economic need.
2. The choice should not be between university and apprenticeship. Apprenticeship should, where a learner has the aspiration and ability, lead to university and apprenticeships at higher and professional levels should use higher education qualifications. There should not be separate ‘learning and skills’ and ‘higher education’ systems; university is about learning and skills at higher and professional levels.
3. Skills policy must be rooted in both supporting social mobility throughout life and improving business performance by enhancing the skills levels of individuals of all ages.
4. Skills policy should focus on ensuring individuals and businesses have the right skills at the right level to compete in the world economy and therefore must encompass all levels from basic skills to Masters degrees, PhDs and professional qualifications.
5. The development of skills policy must be demand led, co-ordinated and based on the needs of both employers and individuals and encompass individuals of all ages and all levels of learning. The historic supply side approach to focus on the reorganisation of individual parts of the ‘skills system’ in isolation alienates employers, poorly serves individuals and leads to a disjoined and often unresponsive system.
6. Clear Apprenticeship pathways are needed from craft, through technician to professional and managerial job roles which are developed and delivered on the basis of employer and learner need.
7. Clear and impartial Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) should be an integral component of the skills system.
8. Universities have a key role to play in developing and accrediting work-based provision aimed at developing the skills, competence and knowledge required for particular job roles and occupations. Skills policy should also recognise the range and value of higher education approaches to developing the employability of full-time students and, in particular, sandwich courses and work placements.
9. The state, individual learners and employers have a responsibility to contribute to the costs of the skills system. The level and responsibility for respective contributions will vary depending on the level of learning, age of learner and sector/subject area. The funding system(s) should be clear and equitable and support progression from qualifications of different levels and transfer of credit between qualifications i.e. QCF, FHEQ and professional qualifications. Tax incentives should support individuals and employers to invest in the development of skills.
10. The development of an effective approach to skills will require the expertise of all stakeholders – employers, Government, schools, FE, private training providers, awarding organisations, professional bodies and universities.
11. For the above reasons Higher Education has a fundamental role to play in supporting the development and accreditation of skills individuals, employers, the economy and society requires. The UK has a world class higher education sector, but regrettably England has not had a world class skills system. Universities do make a major contribution to the skills agenda, but this contribution could be larger and have a greater impact. UVAC is committed to supporting Higher Education make this contribution.