Labour to offer 'earn and learn' technical degrees

The move is part of a drive to boost the career prospects of the 'forgotten 50 per cent' who do not go to university

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The Independent Online

Young people who do not want or get a university place to study a traditional academic subject could take a new “technical degree” under a Labour government.

Ed Miliband will announce today that young workers would be able to “earn and learn” by studying for a degree for part of the week and working for the rest. The Government would subsidise the courses and employers would design and sponsor them.

The move is part of Labour’s drive to boost the career prospects of the “forgotten 50 per cent” who do not go to university. It believes the proposed new degrees would help to secure a new generation of computer experts, technicians, engineers and scientists and reduce the need to recruit highly skilled migrants.

Mr Miliband will say that a “gold standard” vocational qualification would be Labour’s top priority for the expansion of university places planned by the Coalition. The “technical degree” would be aimed at young people who have completed apprenticeships and vocational qualifications and want to continue down this path.

The Labour leader will say: “For too long governments have believed there is only one way to success through education, which is to follow the conventional academic route: to do GCSEs, A-levels, a traditional academic subject at university and then on to career. But that kind of aspiration cannot be limited only to those young people who choose a conventional academic route. We... know that route doesn’t work for everyone and we know as well there have not been clear enough alternatives.”

Mr Miliband will make the announcement in a speech to the Sutton Trust, which has found significant public support for “degree-level apprenticeships”. An Ipsos-Mori poll found that 34 per cent said a degree-level apprenticeship would be better for future career prospects than a university degree, while only 21 per cent thought a traditional degree would be better.

Conor Ryan, director of research at the Sutton Trust, said: “In other European countries, particularly in Germany and Switzerland, three-year, good-quality apprenticeships are a serious option for all young people. Despite some recent improvements, we still have a mountain to climb to match ambitions.”

Employers welcomed Labour’s plan. Tim Thomas, head of employment policy at the EEF manufacturers’ body, said: “While our industry needs graduates, it also needs more talented young people to see vocational-based training as an attractive alternative to academic study.”