Establishing the UK as the global leader for TVET in the 2020s

Stephen Wright
is our Further Education Spokesperson:

The world is becoming more interconnected, both digitally and through an increasingly ambitious and mobile workforce. This is leading to a reduced relevance for Technical and Vocational Education (TVET) that is limited by national boundaries. Countries are looking to grow their economies through the development of an effective workforce trained and assessed to “world class” standards. By 2030, a dominant global TVET system will have emerged and fortunately the UK is well placed to grasp this opportunity.

UK TVET is held in high regard, with training and qualifications based on world class standards, assessed fairly and with integrity. English is the world’s first language and technology is resolving many of the communication and distribution challenges. This is supported by the world’s most dynamic TVET system, supported by a wide range of independent organisations.

However, this variety and numerous reorganisations and fragmentation in the UK technical and professional skills sector have produced a confused TVET proposition that is not coordinated or well understood. As the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, observed, “It could be argued that we have lacked a strategic UK skills offer, to engage in broader based, larger scale programs overseas. I think it’s a fair criticism.”

The solution is a more coordinated approach and that is exactly what the UK Skills Partnership aims to do. Launched in October 2017, it brings together government and a wide range of representative groups across the UK TVET sector. The aim, outlined by Liam Fox, is to “build our capacity, reach and engagement in international activities, and collective insight on matters relating to vocational skills development in international markets”.

The prize is huge, not only the direct export opportunity of a rapidly growing market currently worth an estimated £188bn, but the wider benefit for UK exports of overseas staff trained to UK standards. There are softer benefits for the UK's international reputation and the massive positive impact we can have on the economies of developing countries and the lives of billions of young people.

There is an emerging vacancy for a global leader. The UK has the capacity, reputation and dynamic TVET sector to take the role, however, if we don’t others will, and the UK could find itself having to fall into line with TVET standards and systems set outside our country and with which we have little influence, which might sound familiar.