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At the Annual Conservative Party Conference, held in September 2019, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson addressed ‘the forgotten fifty per cent’: the portion of the UK’s population which is ‘often overlooked’ when it comes to educational avenues and investment. He stressed the importance of ‘vocational education’ by arguing that it is ‘just as valuable as University education’, and indeed ‘just as important to our economy’; in short, he said that a large portion of the population had been ‘forgotten’ and ‘ignored’ by our education system.

 

Fast forward to his statement in July 2020, and these words have acquired an urgency which resonates with us now more than ever. ‘The tragedy is that for decades we have forgotten about half of our education system’, he writes, while making ‘a commitment to stand for the forgotten 50%’. It is a commitment on which the future of our economy and construction industries depends.

 

Some context: way back in 1999, Prime Minister Tony Blair made it his government’s priority to ensure that 50% of the population attended university, a target which was reached in 2017-18, where 50.2% of students went on to study at university. As ambitious and well-meaning as Blair’s target seemed back in 1999, it certainly bodes the question: what about the other 50%?

 

How we're helping the forgotten 50%

Of course, Access Training has been asking the same questions for years: what about the 50% who don’t consider going to university to be a viable or favourable option? What about those who are perfectly cut out for a career in the trades industry, who need the services we provide to prepare them for the future? What about those highly practical and skilled individuals who are now so crucial to propping up our economy?

 

These are the people that Access Training caters for, and Mr Williamson’s long-overdue call for more investment in training programmes proves that our finger has been on the pulse since the very beginning.

 

But most importantly, we must ask whether university degrees actually deliver the benefits we are told they do? Not so, according to Mr Williamson, who notes the fact that ‘five years after completion, the average Higher Technical Apprentice earns more than the average graduate’. This statistic is earth-shattering to the notion that a university education provides a more dependable route to a lucrative career – and so why have we been peddling it for decades?

 

The truth is, the overwhelming focus of the Department of Education in recent decades has been on reaching pointless statistical landmarks without questioning their value, and as a result, half of the country’s student population has been left out of the equation. No equivalent investment has been made in the futures of the forgotten 50% – despite the fact that apprenticeships and vocational tradespeople often earn more than their graduate counterparts, there is still a massive skills shortage in the construction industry: as of October 2019, 40% of construction trades experienced their highest skills shortages since 2013. Our job is to fill that gap – by treating the trades as a secondary or lower form of education, it’s looking like a steep hill to climb.

 

So after two decades, the forgotten 50% are back in the limelight. But despite Mr Williamson’s commendable emphasis on the ‘need for upskilling, reskilling and retraining’, he fails to draw his attention to the current work of Independent Training Providers who have been supplying these crucial services for years already. It is what the country needs, and it is our ticket to salvaging our economy and future job markets. In short, it’s what we need to ‘get Britain working again'.

 

Since the onset of the pandemic, Access Training has transformed its technical and vocational training into an online portal, available to everyone, anywhere, for however long they need it. It is precisely this ability to provide what Mr Williamson calls ‘flexible, practical training’ which makes our educational model so effective and popular with our students, and perfectly matches Mr Williamson’s vision for the future – right now in the present.

 

The future of reskilling and retraining is already here – enquire today about a course with Access Training.

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For many young people today, it's easy to think of university as an automatic route - the default next step after leaving school. With fewer vacancies and greater competition, it can seem like there are not as many opportunities available nowadays as there used to be, and so going to university comes across as being the safest option.

But is the experience of university worth the enormous tuition fees and oppressive debts that come with it? Is university really the surest route to a successful career?

The answer is: no it isn't, at least not for everybody. Many other equally prosperous options are often overlooked by parents, teachers and students alike.

What does university cost?

In 2012, university tuition fees in England almost tripled, going from £3,375 per year to £9,000 per year. At the time, students were promised increased value for money, a far higher quality of university teaching, and far better future prospects - and if the higher fees actually were justified by a far higher quality of learning and a better future for students, then perhaps this could be seen as a fair deal. But with the number of students increasing each year, the value of a degree has if anything fallen since 2012.

And that's not the only problem. The latest report on student debt by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) revealed that graduate students are currently facing a lifetime of debt, averaging around £57,000. On top of tuition fees, which are continually increasing,  this extortionate lifetime bill is made even heftier when maintenance fees and general living costs are taken into account.

So unless a university education is undoubtedly, unquestionably what you want to pursue, why saddle yourself with such a huge backlog of debt?

Is it worth it?

Many students who started university courses after fees were increased have now completed their degrees, but a lot of them are not doing too well; according to The National Union of Students, nearly half of all students who attended university as undergraduates in 2012 are now back to living with their parents.

And the struggle to find employment is only going to become more difficult, according to Sharon Walpole (the Chief Executive of Not Going To Uni, an organisation devoted to spreading awareness of options other than university to help young people secure a strong future). Walpole warns that graduate intakes for large employers will be reduced when an apprenticeship levy is passed in 2017. This levy will include an investment of £2.5 billion into funding apprenticeship training, resulting in an influx of apprenticeship placements and less room for graduates.

With more and more graduates achieving university degrees, things are only likely to become worse, with more competition, fewer opportunities, and less room for work. Read this article to find out how newly-graduated students are finding life after university, and how successful they have been in finding work

What else can your child do?

Leaving university owing £40,000+ is no way to enter the world of work, and a debt of that scale can be a huge financial and mental burden, not only for the students themselves but for the families who then have to support them. With far less priority now being made for graduate employees, finding work is becoming extremely difficult.

If you are thinking of attending university, and are not 100% certain about this choice, we implore you to consider all the available options. If academia is not your forte - if you are better with physical, hands-on work - then the trade industry might be just what you’re looking for, and Access Training is the best establishment in the UK to train and qualify aspiring tradespeople.

Please give us a call today on 0800 345 7492, and enquire about the courses we have on offer. Our course advisors will be happy to give you all the information you require.

Alternatively, select one of the following options to find out more:

With the discovery that students are being actively discouraged from taking up vocational careers such as work in the construction industry, the CITB are urging companies to take more pro-active measures to ensure that the industry looks more attractive to youngsters.

Their suggestion is for construction firms to start making visits to schools during careers fairs and the like so that they will be in pupils' minds when they are considering what to do once they leave the world of education. Chairman James Wates said that he would like to see 50 employers visit 50 different schools this year, which would "send a powerful message" about the industry and the many opportunities it offers.

"Our industry has to compete with many others for future talent," he said. "We can’t leave this to existing careers advice because we need to reach teachers in order to reach pupils."

Energy suppliers EDF Energy have already begun taking similar measures, working closely with local schools near its planned new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point. They have said they've already reached out to around 35,000 school students in Somerset, creating a variety of exciting activities through a special education programme. EDF have said the results have been "very encouraging", with many students now considering/re-considering a career in the construction industry.

With less youngsters joining the various construction trades and the industry itself experiencing a boom thanks to housing growth and other factors, more certainly needs to be done before the older workforce retires and the industry suffers even more of a skills shortage. Access Training is doing its part to plug the skills gap, offering intensive training courses in a number of construction trades complete with the qualifications required by employers. Our courses are fast-paced, but offer high-quality teaching that easily rivals the longer courses you find at colleges.

For more information please contact our course advice team on 0800 345 7492.

Via Construction Enquirer