Late last week, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that the government would drop a Tony Blair-era target of 50% of young people going to university.

In a speech that stressed the need for more vocational training, Williamson said that Britain's education system was guilty of ignoring the "forgotten 50% who choose another path", referring to those who didn't go to university.

Fork in the road leading in two directions

Photo from Pixabay

He also described the need for a major overhaul of this country's approach to training, including courses in the trades and construction where skills shortages continue to occur. The UK is currently in desperate need of plumbers, electricians, gas engineers and carpenters, and many people would prefer to learn these useful skills than go to university for a degree they may not even use.


"Education can open the door to better prospects and transform lives," said Williamson.

With reference to those who felt passed over, the Education Secretary said: "I don't accept this absurd mantra, that if you are not part of the 50% of young people who go to university that you've somehow come up short. You have become one of the forgotten 50% who choose another path."

If you are one of those who was forgotten during the past 20 years, we at Access Training are here to help you get the professional qualifications and training you deserve, for the career you've always wanted. Talk to us about our courses that, even during this difficult period, have produced thousands of qualified tradespeople - despite the prevailing narrative that university education is the only route to a successful ​career. This way of thinking is plainly wrong, as evidenced by all the success stories our training courses have produced.

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Mr Williamson continued: "It exasperates me that there is still an in-built snobbishness about 'higher' being somehow better than 'further', when really they are just different paths to fulfilling and skilled employment."

This university target was described as being a target for the sake of a target, not one with any special purpose. Training should always focus on working towards high-quality qualifications and meeting the requirements set by employers. This is what Access Training Academies have successfully been providing for adult students for the past 13 years.

Adult career changers need a high-quality set of choices, with a clear line of sight to the career they want, at any stage of life should they want to pursue it.

"University should never have been regarded as the silver bullet for everyone and everything," said Williamson. We at Access Training wholeheartedly agree. There are so many opportunities for adult learners to get into the trades; they just need the right bespoke course to help them achieve this.

In short, there is a need for a revolution, and change is long overdue. Education's purpose is to unlock an individual's potential so that they can get the job they want. "If it fails to do that, then education itself has let them down," said Williamson. "Today, I have laid down a marker for change. A commitment to stand for the forgotten 50%."

If you didn't go to university, or if your choices for a new career seem limited, contact Access Training and we will help you to find a pathway to a successful career within the trade of your choosing.

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Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.


As a parent, your child’s future is of paramount importance to you, especially in today’s unstable working climate. This is why alternative career paths are becoming increasingly popular over the traditional university path. 

Parents around the country are to be forgiven for putting all their faith in universities to provide their child with a safeguarded future. It is believed that university is a way of guaranteeing a successful, or at least stable career.

However, this used to be true, but it sadly isn’t the case today. With so many people now in higher education and gaining degrees, the market is so competitive that those with degrees no longer have the edge they once had. Nowadays, the apparent safety of the university option is much weaker than it used to be which is why so many are considering alternative career paths.  

In fact, university often causes the following concerning questions;


  • How will we fund the extortionate cost of our child’s university education?
  • Will our child ever be able to pay off their student debt? 
  • Will they be able to find a job after their degree, even if we do manage to afford it? 


University is not necessarily the best way for a school leaver, and certainly not the only way to guarantee a secure, successful career. 

University Does Not Suit Everybody

Over the last decade or so, schools and governments have emphasised the importance and benefits of a university education - but the truth is, it isn’t suitable for everybody.

If your child isn’t particularly academic but has thrived in more practical, hands-on subjects at school, then it might be worthwhile looking at an alternative career - for example, a career in trades.

The UK Trade Industry Is On The Rise

The UK trade industry is currently rebuilding itself at a rapid rate, enjoying strong job security and healthy wages. However, it is currently starved of workers in the UK and is suffering a huge skills shortage. It requires a new surge of labourers to supply a new generation of tradespeople.

With several large-scale projects proposed by the government in the next five years and thousands of homes being built to accommodate the rising population, both demand and wages for tradespeople are very high - it’s more a matter of jobs seeking tradespeople than tradespeople seeking jobs.

It Works Out Cheaper Than University

Studying at an alternative career path in a private college, such as Access Training, works out far cheaper than it’d cost for a three or four-year university degree.

With universities costing thousands upon thousands per term, today’s students are lucky to graduate without being thousands of pounds in debt.

At Access Training, a plumbing, electrical, or gas course cost a fraction of the money needed for three or more years of university tuition fees and all the other costs such as rent, food and bills.

It Takes Less Time to Become Qualified

A typical university course lasts three years - that’s three years of studying before your child gets the opportunity to start earning. And even then, finding well-paid work soon after university is difficult. Chances are, your child might also be in a mountain of debt.

A course at Access Training takes just a matter of weeks and, equipped with a work placement at the end of the course, your child will be propelled into the working world, as a fully qualified trades worker. 

So in the same amount of time it’d take to complete a university degree, you could re-earn the money paid for a training course in an alternative career path ten times over. The question won’t be how long until I’ll be debt free?, but rather how long until I make back what I invested into the course?.

It’s Financially Rewarding

Not only is the demand and job security high in the trade, but tradespeople are very well rewarded for their services. Average wages for plumberselectricians and gas engineers are around £27,000 a year on average, but there are increasing accounts of tradespeople earning anything between £40,000-£100,000 per year, due to the sheer lack of competition and constant demand.

Take the owner of Pimlico Plumbers, Charlie Mullins, for example, the millionaire plumber’ who says that ‘demand for [his] services’ has ‘soared’ in recent years. But the workforce is struggling to keep up with that demand, meaning those who are in the industry ‘can earn up to £100,000 a year’. 

If ever there was a good time to be a tradesperson, that time is now.

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Ultimately, unless your child has a clear academic motivation, studying at a university may not be the most suitable option. It could result in thousands of pounds’ worth of unnecessary costs, three years or more of valuable time, and all for a degree which may not guarantee your child a stable career or job.

The alternative is far cheaper, far more likely to result in a rewarding, secure career, and will take far less time to achieve. This provides your child with the chance to live and work independently, allowing them the dignifying freedom to be self-sufficient adults.

Does an alternative career path sound appealing to you? Enquire today about a course at Access Training or call us on 0800 345 7492. Our course advisers are always happy to answer any queries you may have.

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