The Skills Network In the UK
The skills network in the UK are made up of governmental departments, education providers, assessors and awarding bodies. All of these bodies play an essential part in keeping the UK learning and developing their skills. Not only does learning provide new opportunities, but it also encourages self-development and improves our quality of life. Learning can improve our confidence and increase the chance of job satisfaction. In addition, learning new skills also helps to keep our brain active and healthy. This is said to potentially help prevent dementia due to the creation of more synapses in the brain. This article will discuss the different bodies within the skills network, what they do and how they create diverse learning opportunities.
Department of Education
The main governmental department involved in skills is the Department for Education. They are responsible for children’s education. This includes compulsory, higher education, apprenticeships and more. They also publish statutory guidance for schools in which they must follow covering:
- Behaviour and attendance
- Administration and Finance
- Special educational/ health needs
This department ensures that children are treated fairly in schools. It also ensures that their education shall be suitable. Furthermore, they publish the performance of schools and colleges. In terms of their information about apprenticeships and traineeships, they help individuals find suitable places and offer advice.
Education and Skills Funding Agency
Another key body in the skills network is the Education and Skills Funding Agency, they work with:
- Academy Funding
- Learning Records Service
- Further Education Funding
- School and College Funding and Finance
This agency is vital for allowing those with monetary restrictions to access education. In doing so, it allows education to be available for most individuals.
Student Loans Company
The student loans company offers grants and loans to students attending university and college. They are a government-owned company. University fees are very high (£9,250 per academic year as of 2020). Therefore, this is the only way that many students can attend university and obtain a degree. They provide loans for both maintenance living costs and tuition fees. As a course is full time, earning an adequate amount of money for maintenance is not feasible. Therefore, many students rely heavily on this maintenance loan. Students then have to re-pay the costs but not until they are earning a high enough income.
The National Career Service
The National Career Service is funded and managed by the Funding Agency. They provide information, advice and guidance for training and career routes. In addition, they have a skills assessment tool which is useful for finding out how individuals skills match a suitable job. The service can help those who are unsure of how to progress within their career.
Ofsted or the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills play a part in regulating schools. This is a non-ministerial department whose role is to inspect educational centres to ensure they meet standards. There are 4 Ofsted ratings that schools are given: outstanding, good, requires improvement and finally, inadequate. They will come up with a rating after they have sat in on classes to understand the schools quality in a number of ways.
The Government Office for Science
The Government Office for Science undertook a project called ‘Future of skills and lifelong learning.’ This discovered what skills will be needed in the future with developing technologies. Furthermore, they looked at whether an investment in skills can encourage lifelong learning. They produced a paper on the benefits of adult learning. They found that lifelong learning can increase our health and employment. Furthermore, it can improve our social and community benefits.
This department is consistently producing reports to increase the skills of people in the UK and has a great influence on the skills network.
One of the most important parts in the skills network is the centres that provide education. There are different levels of education and each centre will provide a collection of different levels.
The Stages of Education
In the UK there are 5 stages of education: early years, primary, secondary, further education and higher education. Compulsory education extends until 18 years of age which means further education is necessary. The types of further education include A Levels, BTEC Nationals, HNDs or HNCs or NVQs. As of recent, TechBac and UTCs are also part of the list. Moreover, courses and training is taken throughout many adults lives to increase their skills, this is mainly at the vocational level.
There are various ways to receive an education. This will normally be in centres, but also elsewhere. In younger years it is a requirement to either attend a school or be homeschooled. There are both state-funded schools and private schools as well as boarding schools. Once they are of the age of 18 they can decide to leave education if they wish.
There are 3 main pathways that a person may choose to progress to work; academic, apprenticeship and vocational.
- In the academic route, this usually involves continuing academic education from 18 into universities or other centres to obtain a degree.
- In the apprenticeship route, a person normally completes their compulsory education and takes an apprenticeship to learn whilst working.
- For the vocational route, this can include HNDs, HNCs and other online courses for a specific route of work.
Of course, each route can overlap and not everyone picks a particular route to follow the whole way through. For example, an individual may decide to take a degree but then go on to take an online course or other methods of learning new skills.
Those who wish to go into an industry which requires skills to be learnt by doing, there are courses for the construction industry like bricklaying. There are many education providers who provide courses in construction career progression. For example, the College of Contract Management provides courses for site supervisory as well as site management. The great benefit of education is that it does not stop when you finish school, many people continue to study with courses throughout their adult life.
In addition, employers offer at-work training to develop skills. This can help them progress into higher up roles. These training opportunities are usually related to the job role. Employers significantly add to the skills network in the UK, with their contributions of apprenticeships and training schemes.
Becoming Part of Education
As stated previously, the skills network is made up of various different bodies. There is a particular body that helps people find their place at universities. This is UCAS, or the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. They are an independent charity that helps connect people with the right universities for them. It allows potential students to rank their university choices and create firm and backup choices. It also provides information on the alternatives to university including internships, apprenticeships and gap years. This is the service which most universities wish their applicants to apply.
To become part of an educational centre, many have entry requirements. For example, if you are stepping up into university, they will look at your BTEC or A-Level scores to determine whether you would be capable of learning that degree subject. Many universities only accept the highest educated individuals like Oxford and Cambridge. Furthermore, private schools often require applicants to sit an entrance exam together with an interview.
Other courses may only require you to have basic English understanding and welcome all abilities into the course. It is useful to check what is required for a particular course.
Ofqual is The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation. They have the role of regulating qualifications, examinations and assessments in England. Notably, they regulate the exam boards for GCSEs, AS and A-Levels. This is to ensure confidence is maintained in the assessment. They have approved AQA, OCR, Pearson and WJEC Eduqas. Ofqual makes sure that all outcomes will be fair regardless of which exam board is used as there are various different ones.
For GSCEs, A-Levels and BTEC awards, Pearson provides qualifications. AQA also provides qualifications for GSCEs and A Levels.
In terms of awarding bodies for other courses, for construction-related qualifications the CIOB or Chartered Institute of Building offers qualifications in site supervisory and site management. Each subject matter will likely have different awarding bodies. Pearson awards many of the College of Contract Management courses including HNDs.
Qualifications in the UK allow for high-quality skills throughout the country. The high standards to complete qualifications is to ensure that the skills of individuals are being constantly developed.
Accrediting bodies are also a key part of the skills network. For courses which are accredited, this means they have been approved by a professional body for reaching the required standards for the particular subject. For engineering-related courses, the Association of Planning Engineers also accredits some of The College of Contract Management’s courses and offers membership coaching which helps individuals become Professional Members.
There are a huge number of professional bodies out there which all set the standards required for a particular course to be taught. A few examples are:
- The Institution of Structural Engineers
- Institution of Civil Engineers
- Chartered Management Institute
- Chartered Institute of Arbitrators
These groups are an important part of the skills network in the UK as they help to protect employers, students and the academic institutions to ensure that what is being taught meets professional level. Further, the experts in the field usually have required standards so a course which is accredited by that body means it gives you the best chance at future employment.
The British Council and UK Skills Partnership
The British Council play an important role within the UK’s skills network. They are an international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations that works in over 100 countries. They also have a Royal Charter. It builds connections between other countries and the UK with education. They help individuals learn English, to obtain high quality education and gain qualifications.
In addition, they help those who would like to study outside the UK. This can be a great opportunity for those who want to learn about other cultures and develop their experiences. Furthermore, they help people work in other countries. It is a fantastic organisation to promote relationships and share skills with other cultures.
The UK Skills Partnership comprises of technical vocational and training providers. It promotes this way of learning which is a fast progressive area of developing skills.
A variety of different organisations create a skills network in the UK. It helps promote continued learning, rights to learning and ways to develop our career. The UK would be lacking in brain stimulation without these organisations. Not only does it promote better health, but it also helps us connect with people all over the world. The continuation of our learning into adulthood can also have social and community benefits. The bodies that regulate our education help to protect us and ensure that we are provided with the best possible learning tools.
The College of Contract Management is proud to be a part of the skills network, we want to help individuals from all over the world in all different cultures to find education and add to their skill set. Online courses are a brilliant way to learn whilst working and a full-time job does not prevent the possibility of additional learning. Developing skills should be available to everyone globally.