The education secretary said the number of Institutes of Technology – partnerships between businesses, universities and further education (FE) colleges – will expand from 12 to 20 in England.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Monday, Mr Williamson said he hopes to overtake Germany – which has a strong vocational education system – in technical routes by 2029.
He said he wants to “supercharge further education” as it has been “often overlooked”.
The government plans to place a greater focus on the “forgotten 50 per cent” of school leavers who do not go to university after figures showed that half of young people now go into higher education.
Addressing Conservative Party members, he said: “Apprenticeships, technical and vocational education, these are just as important and as valuable as going to university and are just as important to our economy to make sure that Britain succeeds in the future.
“So today I am setting a new target to supercharge further education over the next decade. Our aim is to overtake Germany in the opportunities we offer to those studying technical routes by 2029.”
The government will also form a new experts, skills and productivity board of leading labour market economists to advise on the skills and qualifications needed, he said.
Mr Williamson said the extra £120m funding will ensure there is an Institute of Technology “in every major city in England” to ensure young people have a chance to gain technical skills.
“While past Labour governments obsessed over targets to get half the population to university, they forgot about the other 50 per cent. We’re going to put that right,” he added
But Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), called the pledge “disappointing”, adding that it was not backed up with the necessary funding.
He said: “The ambition for Britain to offer better technical education than Germany in 10 years’ time will come to nothing if more funding is not found.
“Colleges and school sixth forms have suffered the worst cuts of any part of the education system over the last nine years. Even after the announcement of an additional £400m in April 2020, they still have £1.1bn less in real terms than in 2010.”
A report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that an extra £400m of government money for further education will still leave spending per student more than 7 per cent down on 2010.
Additional reporting by PA
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