The launch of the Green Paper on Industrial Strategy by Prime Minister Theresa May today (23 January 2017) outlined plans to develop innovation and technology, which will support the delivery of a “high-skilled, competitive economy that benefits people throughout the UK.”
As a Higher Education institution with over 170,000 student across the four nations, The Open University (OU) welcomes the emphasis of technical education and vocational training in the ‘Ten Pillars of the Industrial Strategy’. However, the value of technical education and vocational training in increasing productivity and closing the skills gap, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM), should not be restricted to the young workforce.
In response to the Industrial Strategy, there is a clear emphasis on the importance of lifelong learning to support the future of the UK economy. For the Strategy to work in every community and for everyone, the UK needs lifelong opportunities for education and training.
A more coherent system of tertiary education, with more funding options and the ability for students to have smooth pathways across all education institutions, would enable individuals to learn throughout their working lives. For example, Personal Learning Accounts would offer all adults wishing to study or train a single funding pot and the flexibility to spend this on course fees and maintenance loans; An initiative The Open University is supportive of as it would widen access to all levels of education.
The Open University is at the forefront of providing careers information and advice following the launch of the Part-time Education for Adults Returning to Learn (PEARL) website. This signposts all educational opportunities for adults and employers, so that they can refresh or increase their skills and knowledge, with a view to progress within their chosen career path, or to take a new direction.