Skills chief issues university warning

Published:  25 September, 2015

The record number of university entrants could ultimately prove to be bad for business – a UK skills chief has warned.

Ann Watson, who heads up Semta, the not for profit employer led body skilling engineering and advanced manufacturing says it could be an early indicator that the skills gap is widening.

Another unintended consequence is to raise the age of apprentice applicants – as older people fill the vacancies. Over 25s already account for the largest number of apprentice starts in the last year – a total of 161,600 – with 16-year-olds lagging behind at 25,500.

“This might be bad news for business”, said Ann. “The door to university is being opened even wider – which may mean school leavers will get swept in without considering fully their options.

“Meanwhile industry is crying out for apprentices to fill positions that will provide opportunities to earn and learn, solid qualifications and a rewarding career for life.

“The Government has set itself of a tough target of creating 3 million new apprenticeships in this Parliament – which will take some doing.

“The engineering sector needs a further 800,000 skilled engineers by the end of the decade to fulfill its growth potential – so there is no time to lose.”

The Government has lifted the cap on university places resulting in more than 400,000 youngsters being accepted on courses on the day A- Level results were announced – with a further 100,000 likely to find places between now and the start of term.

Research carried out by Semta, in partnership with The STEM Alliance, found that just 10 per cent of teachers and parents had sufficient knowledge of vocational pathways to work.

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