What the Budget means for skills on Teesside

Zoe Lewis, principal and chief executive of Middlesbrough College, gives her views after Phillip Hammond’s latest budget…

The Chancellor made some welcome moves in the Budget that will benefit skills on Teesside.

Colleges like Middlesbrough College are set to receive an extra £600 for every student who studies A Level maths or further maths.

Together with an £84m pot to triple the number of computer science teachers, supported by a new National Centre for Computing, the measures will help us meet the demands of regional industry by training young people in key STEM subjects.

A new £20m fund will help colleges prepare for the introduction of T Level qualifications.

T Levels are new technical qualifications that aim to simplify vocational training and introduce a substantial focus on work experience in order to equip students for the workplace.

They will undoubtedly benefit Teesside’s economy, helping to prepare students for careers in engineering and manufacturing, construction and finance in a way that A Levels are not currently designed to do.

As a college that has focussed investment in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects over recent years, we really welcome the Government’s commitment to address the skills priorities.

Of course the investment in the South Tees Development Corporation to develop the former SSI site at Redcar is great news, and will help prepare the ground for new companies.

Middlesbrough College will work with these incoming companies to make sure they have the skills resources they need to thrive on Teesside. As one of the biggest regeneration projects in the country, skills will be at the centre of its success.

It was disappointing to see the Chancellor did not commit to equalising funding across education ages that would help to rebalance the current system, which we believe disadvantages some A Level and vocational students.

The national funding rate for 16 and 17-year-olds has been fixed since 2013 at £4,000 per full-time student, and this reduces even further once the student turns 18 to £3,300.

This compares to around £6,000 per student in schools and more than £9,000 for students in university.

Because the rate has been fixed, colleges have had to absorb many extra costs, meaning it’s getting tougher each year to provide a comprehensive curriculum of the kind that equips students with the skills and knowledge they need to take into the workplace.

Small and medium-sized businesses in the region would have also benefited from a review of the Apprenticeship Levy, which currently requires employers to raise a 10 per cent contribution towards the cost of an apprenticeship.

 

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