Theresa May will move on Monday to reassure business leaders that they will not suffer skills shortages as a result of Brexit, when she places expansion of vocational education at the heart of a new proactive industrial strategy. Many businesses worry that the UK’s departure from the single market will not only damage their trade with Europe but will also make it more difficult to attract enough suitable workers.
Before Christmas, the Institute of Directors called on May to address the issue of skills shortages before Brexit and, as a first move, to guarantee the rights of more than 2.5 million EU citizens working in this country, to remain permanently. Some 40% of companies mentioned skill shortages as having a negative effect on how they viewed their prospects.
In a sign of her willingness to show that government must work in partnership with the private sector rather than take a “hands-off” approach, May will acknowledge the need to improve the UK’s productivity. She will also announce £170m of additional funding for institutes of technology to boost technical education, addressing its “historic undervaluation” by providing a credible alternative for young people who do not go to university.
Leading educationists, including Ofsted’s former chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, have called for a far greater focus on vocational education to offset the impact of Brexit and to equip British students to fill the gaps left in the workforce.
Before her announcement the prime minister said the new industrial strategy was a “critical part of our plan for post-Brexit Britain”. May added: “Our action will help ensure young people develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future. That means boosting technical education and ensuring we extend the same opportunity and respect we give university graduates to those people who pursue technical routes.”
A government green paper will outline plans for a new system of technical education with 15 core technical