The IET reviews education announcements during 2012 including work with schools, colleges and on apprenticeships and training.
Vocational education is a fundamental part of today’s educational system and one that should be considered equally valuable as a traditional academic route, not simply a bolt on pathway. With the government talking about rebalancing the economy away from the City, it is more important than ever that young people are equipped with the right practical and technical skills and this should begin at school level with better access to high quality vocational qualifications such as the engineering diploma and also the promotion of apprenticeships as a viable alternative to university.
2012 has seen a big change in the government’s attitude towards the engineering diploma. The year began with the government taking the decision to downgrade the engineering diploma from being worth five GCSES to only being worth one, even though it was widely recognised by employers and the profession as being a rigorous qualification, equivalent to at least five subjects.
The rationale for this decision stemmed from Professor Alison Wolf ‘s review of vocational education. Whilst the engineering profession largely agreed with the recommendations made by Professor Wolf, we did not agree with the blanket approach that the Education Secretary took to devaluing all vocational qualifications regardless of their progression potential or the value placed on them by employers.
The IET, along with the other professional engineering institutions campaigned strongly to reinstate the engineering diploma throughout the course of the year. We were very successful in achieving significant media coverage and meetings with key ministers to put forward the case of the importance of vocational training and how vital it is to equip young people with key practical and technical skills that qualifications such as the diploma afforded.
Our work was recognised through the government’s decision in the latter part of 2012 to reintroduce the engineering diploma in performance tables as a suite of smaller qualifications. The new suite of qualifications will be available from 2016. Schools / pupils will be able to choose to take a subset of the qualifications or all four leading to the full diploma.
We welcome the government’s decision on the engineering diploma but over the course of 2013 we will continue to stress the importance of vocational qualifications such as apprenticeships and the diploma which enables young people to gain essential practical skills that traditional academic routes may not always provide.