Britain needs advanced technical education for elite technicians 25 June 2014

Business Secretary Vince Cable has called for a new model of high-level technical education, combining academic and applied knowledge to generate elite apprenticeships.

Speaking at the National Summit on Apprentices, held at the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre yesterday (24 June 2014), the Secretary of State for Business said that elite apprenticeships should include progression to degree level and beyond.

They should also be supported by a new generation of national colleges focusing on higher level technical training.

"We need to end the stereotype that apprenticeships are for those who do not get to university," insisted Cable.

"Increasingly, apprenticeships are not just a valid alternative to going to university, but can actually include degrees," he continued.

"Degree level apprenticeships give businesses the opportunity to develop training and education programmes specifically designed to equip learners with the skills their business needs – combining theoretical education and technical training."

For Cable, the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre is a "prime example" of the type of provision he wants to encourage through new national colleges.

Pundits accept that the UK economy requires 830,000 new engineers over the next eight years just to replace workers reaching retirement.

In the civil nuclear energy industry alone, more than two-thirds of skilled workers will retire in the next decade and yet 31% of high-tech manufacturing firms import labour from overseas due to the skills shortage.

"By focusing on a new approach to higher vocational education apprenticeships and education, we are opening up new forms of higher education inseparable from our world-leading research partnerships with industry," stated University of Sheffield vice-chancellor professor sir Keith Burnett.

"But we are also helping to create sustainable jobs, growth and access to a university education which does not involve debt for those students...

"We are redefining how UK universities with a world-class reputation for research and teaching can engage with very highest-quality technical education."

The National Summit on Apprentices brought together partners from industry, universities and skills policy, as well as representatives of the 150 advanced apprentices currently working with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

The event was staged in association with DBIS (the Department of Business, Industry and Skills) and Sheffield's Global Manufacturing Festival, and included speakers from industrial partners such as Rolls-Royce.

Brian Tinham

Related Companies
Department for Business Innovation & Skills
University of Sheffield

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