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Today a report advising ministers to bring about a ‘fundamental shift’ in technical education in England has been published by the Independent Panel on Technical Education. The panel, chaired by Lord Sainsbury, concludes that there are serious problems with the current ‘over-complex’ system which ‘fails to provide the skills most needed for the 21st century’ and highlights that this has serious consequences for the country’s productivity, economy, and competitiveness.

The report, the product of seven months of consultation, makes 34 recommendations which have been announced by the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills today.

Currently over 13,000 technical qualifications are available at post 16 level, yet the report finds that these often hold little value for either individuals or employers. Technical education qualifications at higher levels, they also claim, do not prepare people for the relevant occupations due to non-existent or weak regulation.

The Royal Society of Biology agrees it is important that technical education and training should ensure individuals can develop the technical knowledge and skills needed by industry and welcomes the report’s call to systematically reform technical education for the long term, and independent of political cycles. The Society welcomes the recommendation to simplify these many thousands of qualifications to 15 core technical education career paths.

Rachel Lambert-Forsyth CSci CBiol MRSB, director of education and training at the Royal Society of Biology said:
“Coherence and clarity in technical qualifications is important to provide the skills required to secure the country’s future, in the life sciences and in general. The bioscience sector provides the UK economy with more than £36bn a year which relies on technical training in agriculture, environment, animal care and the health sectors amongst many others.

“It is important that the standards for technical qualifications leading to employment meet the needs of employers. The RSB’s Employer Advisory Group, which includes members from across the life sciences industry, is keen to advise wherever possible. It is important that the new standards set the bar high enough to ensure that these routes are highly valued.”

The Society also supports the recommendation to introduce clearer bridges between academia and technical education to help those wishing to move between the two paths throughout their careers. This is particularly important for those returning to bioscience after a career break as priorities may have changed.

The Society is keen to play a full role in helping ensure a close alignment between these qualification pathways and professional registration processes.