Jul 16

Social care in the Skills Plan – an opportunity for our sector

Posted: 11 July 2016

Rob Newby, Skills for Care Programme Head – Standards, Learning, Qualifications and Apprenticeships

We now have the long awaited government Post-16 Skills Plan, and the accompanying Lord Sainsbury’s Report of the Independent Panel on Technical Education. Both documents were published by the government on Friday 8 July.

This Skills Plan will have a significant effect on the landscape of learning opportunity, of the role and significance of employers in setting the standards for their sectors and in the awarding sector.

Skills for Care is delighted to note that of the 15 technical routes proposed within the plan, social care is highlighted as one of the key routes to achieving the government’s aim.

Offering learners at the age of 16 a choice of two routes the plan finally offers the parity of esteem between an employment-based route to learning and an academic route, so long called for by those delivering vocational learning.

Within each route, learners can – following a transition year or traineeship for those ‘not ready to access a technical education route at age 16’ – choose between a two-year, college-based programme (including compulsory work experience), or an employment-based programme typically an apprenticeship (including at least 20 per cent college-based provision).

One technical level qualification, closely aligned to the framework established for the new Apprenticeship Standards and offered by one awarding organisation in each of the 15 areas is proposed, leading to the reduction of confusion in an otherwise crowded market.

This single, common framework of standards should cover both apprenticeships and technical college-based provision and furthermore these standards must be designed to deliver the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to perform successfully in specific occupations, not the narrower job-role focused needs of individual employers.

Older learners will also be entitled to take these programmes and with the majority of entrants to our sector coming from an over 19 age group we await the further announcements the government will make on the application of these routes for adult learners, expected later in the year.

Importantly there will be pathways up into higher technical education programmes, higher apprenticeships or degree apprenticeships as well as options for bridging programmes into undergraduate degrees.

It will be the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education – the Institute for Apprenticeships with a wider brief – who will have the responsibility for bringing together expert groups of employers and educational professionals. It will be for the Institute to decide on the specifics of the process for developing apprenticeship standards and assessment plans, and how best to ensure alignment with college-based learning, but employer groups will continue to lead on the design of standards and assessment plans.

What is needed now is the political will to see these highlighted reforms through. With the current political changes across all parties, and with the lasting effect of the EU Referendum still uncertain, it would be disappointing if there were not to be the common goal of driving these reforms to completion from whichever party is in government once we enter into a period of stability.