MP’s challenge on post-16 social mobility opportunity

techednov2016A Bristol MP urged the government to ensure plans to reform technical education and apprenticeships improve social mobility in her constituency. Karin Smyth (Bristol South) is concerned that the remit of the body being established by Ministers to deliver the changes is too broad, and might not be able to deliver.

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During a Commons debate on the Technical and Further Education Bill (14 November) the Labour MP highlighted the importance of apprenticeships to her constituency.

“Representing Bristol South I know perhaps more than most the importance of technical education. Bristol South sends fewer of its young people to higher education than any other UK constituency, so we have lots of young people in further education and on apprenticeships,” she said, adding that “for too long technical and vocational education has been seen as the poor relation to academic education – less important.”

But she told MPs that 80 per cent of apprentices in Bristol South are currently on schemes with the lowest wage differentials: retail, health & public services, and business administration. Highlighting the opportunity reform might offer, she challenged Ministers: “I want to know and understand how the government will ensure that we have young people doing vocational training, including apprenticeships in the right areas, and ensure that the training gives them higher earning potential and career options.”

She said she wants the reforms to succeed because their spirit, she believes, is well placed. “Its basis is sound too,” she said, welcoming the fact that it aims to deliver the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Technical Education headed by Lord Sainsbury.

“As the Secretary of State acknowledged last week the way that as a country we help young people fulfil their potential and use their talents to the full will become more important than ever in post-Brexit Britain.”

Drawing attention to the period of transition to the new system, she sought guidance for people currently in school, and their parents and carers who want to help them plan and navigate their futures.

“What is the government doing to ensure those who encounter the new system in the future are getting the guidance and advice they need NOW, so they don’t lose out when the new frameworks and assessments are introduced?

“We cannot allow those who lack the prior knowledge needed to find ways of navigating systems to flounder,” she said, urging Ministers to provide proactive support and guidance.

Karin Smyth appealed to Ministers to the new, revised system “as easy to navigate for young people and their parents and carers as possible.

“Much work has rightly been done down the years to make academic pathways easy to navigate. Let’s take the chance this Bill presents to ensure parity of transparency – and ease of navigation – for those pursuing a technical route,” she said.

Watch Karin Smyth’s speech here: