Level 2 and Post 16 Qualifications

Cutting off the bottom of the training ladder

This week BACH like many others will have put in our response to the Departmental consultation issued through Ofqual entitled “Review of post-16 qualifications at level 2 and below in England”.

It is appreciated that the proposals are thin on detail, and many organisations have been calling for more clarity.  Whilst recognising that this is the case, the true intent is very clear indeed.  Cut funding and saw the bottom off the skills ladder which the Chair of the Education Select Committee, Hon Robert Halfon MP, talks so passionately about.

BACH agrees we need reform which includes rationalisation and simplification of the qualification landscape. We also need to be able to readily update all the qualifications, apprenticeship standards and NOS were there are no standards, for digitization and sustainability ‘green’ skills. In fact, a new and easy way of continually updating qualifications is required as there are going to have to be changes made on an on-going basis.

BACH and its Members also appreciate the problems with funding rates and recruitment none of which are addressed in this consultation.  We will be discussing more on this at our conference on 19 May in Coventry.

It is not clear how apprenticeship funding will work if a learner in effect learns all of the KSBs in the college course and qualification. There would be no funding left for the in-work component of any apprenticeship. If this is case, then what’s the incentive for an employer to take on apprentices?

Level 1 and below qualifications are critical to support progression to further learning or employment/apprenticeships. They to need to be based upon KSBs in the occupational standard or NOS so they provide a clear stepping-stone. These types of qualifications must include soft/social/employability skills as well as green and digital skills. These qualifications must be small or modularised to allow the learner to progress and feel they are achieving.

Also feeding into this debate on what to do on Level 2 and below qualifications are the first batch of Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) published. They tell us that employers find the skills system too complex, qualifications lag behind advancements in industry, formal courses and qualifications are too big and time-consuming, tutors aren’t up-to-date, and SMEs feel systematically excluded.

None of this really gets addressed in this consultation. In fact, quite the opposite. The approval process for qualifications will be long and tortuous, if what has happened in the migration of EPAOs on apprenticeships is anything to go by. Smaller qualifications and even modules of qualifications are going to have their funding removed.

The policy proposals come over as ones which are primarily for young people in full-time education, getting their first job or adults that need a significant amount of training to move sector and/or occupation. There appears to be a constant bias towards academic type classroom delivered large qualifications through-out the document. These are not applicable to adults and young people that are developing practical skills and competencies.  And the proposed funding cuts will take away the bottom rungs of the ladder and will disadvantage those that need extra modularised learning support in school and college as well as ‘lowly’ qualified adults. Stopping social mobility in its tracks.

The needs for economic regeneration (building back better/levelling up) do not appear to have been considered. In fact, one is left with the impression that, if the proposals set out in this consultation document are implemented, the Department of Leveling up, Housing & Communities will need its own separate skills programme and separate set of qualifications and funding. This does not appear to be a good use of tax payer money.

The vocational and technical education and skills policies need to recognise that not everyone will progress to Level 3. In fact, in construction most of the trade and operative occupations are level 2 and there is a need to be able to provide the people to fill the growing skills gap in this part of the workforce. Level 2 is a legitimate goal for many as well as a stepping-stone towards an ultimate Level 3.

In this context, the policies outlined in the consultation address the major economic challenges the country faces and will not support the levelling up agenda to reskill a construction operational workforce of some 1.3 million adults with short duration qualifications or modules of a qualification at Level 2 and below

Funded modularised qualifications are required that match the needs of jobs in the economy and can respond to changes in these jobs due to digitization and other factors. These must allow people to build up knowledge through smaller modularised qualifications, demonstrating progression and increased knowledge. Smaller funded qualifications are critical if levelling up and social mobility are to be properly supported.  This is a million miles away from the current proposals; which if implemented will damage the economy and social mobility.

The advice to the Secretary of State and Skills Minister is to recognise the Department has not got these proposals aligned with levelling up, economic recovery and social mobility and as a result bin them and think again.

Graham Hasting-Evans

President of BACH

Click to see BACH’s response to Department for Education; Review of post-16 qualifications at level 2 and below in England Government consultation Launch date 2 March 2022

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