Now is the ‘Time for T’ – It is a key moment for technical education, building a highly skilled and adaptable workforce to address not just recovery from Covid-19 but also levelling up across the country, and responding to the challenges of climate change, prioritising sustainable development.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into the spotlight many of the inequalities in society. The impact of the virus on decent work and economic growth have understandably become priorities in the public narrative as well as in government action. The post pandemic policy arena has an opportunity to use the crisis as a springboard for action not just to look at the short term impacts of Covid, but also how we can achieve longer term goals, such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Climate action and social justice
The SDGs are interdependent, so we cannot hope to address climate action, reduce inequalities, or prioritise wellbeing and health if we don’t simultaneously address access to, and provision of, quality education. This of course includes quality further and higher technical STEM education, ensuring inclusivity and accessibility. This will require ensuring that everyone has access to high-quality, impartial, careers education information, advice and guidance, and knowledge of the career progression pathways that are available to them, so that as a country, we can make the most of everyone’s skills and talents.
Partnership working will be key to goal realisation, ensuring effective collaboration between higher and further education sector colleagues, employers, and wider stakeholders, so that individuals, businesses and communities can thrive.
Education is a key enabler for achieving the SDGs which seek to address the climate and biodiversity crises, create social justice and develop economic opportunities that deliver on a fairer, healthier and sustainable future. Education for sustainable development (ESD) seeks to create opportunities for learners to develop their knowledge, skills, behaviours, and agency, to be able to contribute positively to sustainable development, whilst realising their aspirational goals of progressing to higher levels of technical STEM study or employment.
The role of Further Education
The role of the FE and Training sector in this transition is particularly critical – due to its reach, as well as its emphasis on technical and vocational skills, supporting individuals to upskill, reskill and retrain whilst addressing the needs of communities aligned to regional and national priorities.
The FE and Training sector is central to technical reform implementation and growing the technical STEM talent pipeline. In FE along with wider partners, we are building capacity, and working to ensure that the current and future workforce will be able to meet the needs of many industry sectors and employers, who all have a critical role to play in sustainable development. This includes integrating ‘green skills’ for the workforce today and the future.
There are many stories, country-wide of why the FE sector and its partners are so central to the UK’s social, environmental and economic prosperity. The Further Education and Training sector transforms lives.
The systems and frameworks within which the sector operates are starting to recognise the potential of the sector. In addition to technical reforms in terms of T Levels, apprenticeships and more recently higher technical education, there have been advances in initial teacher education standards, occupational standards and frameworks that support whole-organisation approaches to ESD in the last 18 months. This is translating into the work of educators who are embedding ESD in their teaching and learning practice, and prioritising partnership working with employers and wider stakeholders within their localities and regions.
The emphasis is very much on local skills improvement planning with alignment to national priorities- Act Local, Think Global! Ultimately, we are aiming to prepare learners for the world of work and the work of the world.