Opportunities in the higher technical education landscape
Our new research shows that the higher technical education landscape offers opportunities to secure a pipeline of skilled future scientists and technicians – who are vital to the chemical sciences workforce and the contribution it makes to the UK economy, society and the environment in which we live.
There are opportunities for learners to gain valuable skills and find flexible ways of progressing in the chemical sciences. Employers can also benefit by participating in routes that develop knowledge and skills tailored to their occupational context.
But it is clear that a major barrier to growing participation in these qualifications is awareness, among both prospective learners and employers, of what qualifications at this level can offer.
With the roll out of T-levels in England in 2021 and the introduction of Department for Education reforms to higher technical education, building a consistent and well-used offer that makes the most of the opportunities will require collaboration across our community and with policymakers. This will ensure the needs of the chemical sciences are understood, met, and the benefits communicated to learners and wider society.
About this research
We commissioned Shift Membership to explore the experiences, motivations and journeys of learners undertaking higher technical and applied qualifications in Chemistry and related subjects in England and Scotland, with a view to shaping the direction of our policy work in this area of education.
In the research we looked at applied and technical qualifications at levels above post-16 qualifications such as A-levels and Scottish Highers, but below full undergraduate level. This includes qualifications such as Higher National Certificates (HNC), Higher National Diplomas (HND) and Foundation Degrees, in subjects such as Applied Chemistry, Chemistry for Industry or Laboratory Science.
We looked at qualifications which can be studied as either stand-alone classroom qualifications on a full- or part-time basis, or in the context of an apprenticeship.
The research focused on 3 key questions:
- Who are the learners and how did they come to study these qualifications?
- To what extent does studying these qualifications prepare learners to enter the chemical sciences labour market?
- What are the outcomes for learners studying these qualifications and what do they intend to do with their qualification
We also wanted to understand:
- What are providers’ experiences in offering these qualifications? What difficulties do they face?
- How do employers perceive these qualifications? What are their needs when recruiting to technical roles, and do these qualifications meet them?
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