“Skills not schools” as government announce new college for Purfleet

PLANS for a pioneering “career college” in Purfleet for 14- to 19-year-olds have been announced by the government.

The college is amongst a number across the country that will offer vocational training in a range of subjects including digital technology, construction, catering and healthcare reports The Independent

The radical new breed of colleges – the brainchild of Lord Baker, a former Conservative Education Secretary – will build on his network of highly successful university technical colleges which specialise in the so-called Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).

Writing in the Independent, Lord Baker said: “By starting at 14, youngsters have a head start in preparing for the world of work as they do in Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands, where youth unemployment is much lower.”

He added: “We have one million young people unemployed and we are issuing visas to people from overseas who have the skills that are needed – it is about time that we filled the skills gap with our own young people.”

The plans will be announced by Lord Baker who will call for more vocational colleges to be opened and say that the career colleges “fit the bill”. The first such college is scheduled to open in Oldham, greater Manchester, next year and will focus on giving its students the skills to work in the digital economy.

One of its partners will be the University of Salford, which specialises in degrees connected to the media, now that the BBC has moved into its neighbourhood.

There are 17 UTCs already operating in Britain, with 27 more in the pipeline and proposals for a further 15 being assessed by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust (set up by Lord Baker and the late Lord Dearing, a senior government adviser on education).

The JCB Academy in Staffordshire, the first to be set up, achieved astonishing success in its GCSEs this year with all of its students gaining five or more A* to C grade passes, including in engineering.

A further four careers colleges are to open as well as the one in Oldham. A college in Purfleet, Essex, will specialise in the creative and cultural industries, another in Oxford will cover “human health” (nursing care for the elderly, residential care and social care in the community) while a college in Bromley, Kent, will focus on food and enterprise careers. Hospitality is the third largest employment sector in south-east London.

As well as vocational training, the new-style colleges will also ensure their pupils study English, maths and science at GCSE. The mix in the UTCs at present is 40 per cent vocational and 60 per cent academic study.

The new career colleges will be set up on the sites of existing further education colleges but operate as separate institutions. Lord Baker is anxious to persuade more principals of further education colleges to embrace the idea.

Today’s proposals come at a time when the careers service is under fire for failing to deliver adequate advice to pupils after taking over the responsibility from schools.

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