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Budget 2017: Colleges welcome investments to plug skills gaps in maths and construction

PUBLISHED: 18:01 22 November 2017 | UPDATED: 20:56 22 November 2017

Alex Hayes, principal of University Technical College Norfolk, based in Norwich. Picture: Richard Steer/TEN Group

Alex Hayes, principal of University Technical College Norfolk, based in Norwich. Picture: Richard Steer/TEN Group

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Chronic skills shortages in construction and STEM subjects were addressed in the Budget with promises of funding to help training providers improve current practises and adjust to new ones.

Mark Pendlington (right), chair of governors at Easton and Otley College, with Michael Heseltine during the building of the college's construction centre in 2015. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLYMark Pendlington (right), chair of governors at Easton and Otley College, with Michael Heseltine during the building of the college's construction centre in 2015. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Mathematics was a key focus for the chancellor – arguably the country’s most prominent economist – with £40m pledged to train maths teachers, an expansion of the Teaching for Mastery of Maths programme to 3,000 more schools, and a £600 maths premium for schools for every additional pupil who takes A-level or core maths.

A further £20m of funding was promised to help further education colleges get ready for the introduction of the new technical qualification, T-levels, as well as more support for computer science teaching.

East Coast College – formed from the merger of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft Colleges – will be offering T-levels.

Director of commercial development Ian Pease said: “We are looking at how it will impact how we deliver our curriculum. Extra funding will be helpful as it is a significant change.”

Alex Hayes, principal of University Technical College Norfolk, based in Norwich. Picture: Richard Steer/TEN GroupAlex Hayes, principal of University Technical College Norfolk, based in Norwich. Picture: Richard Steer/TEN Group

Alex Hayes, principal of University Technical College Norfolk (UTCN), said: “We support anything that provides greater opportunities for young people to study maths, computing and other technical skills.

“There is a disconnect where people do not realise which skills the economy needs and which are beneficial for employment. The emphasis is now on encouraging people to study these subjects.”

The Budget also promised £34m to improve training in the construction industry, as part of its focus on housebuilding.

Mark Pendlington, chair of governors at Easton and Otley College, said the college had been “working hard to shine a light on the construction industry” since opening a new training facility at its Norfolk campus two years ago.

“In that time, we have worked with many local businesses and supported hundreds of trainees. This and our future work to support the construction industry will ensure we play our part in building more homes in this region and beyond,” he said.

Mr Pease acknowledged the “huge demand” for skills in the construction sector. “We see it ourselves trying to find trainers, assessors and lecturers to work for us,” he said.

“The skills are in demand in the workplace so we know it is a growth area which is important strategically for the region.”

Mr Hammond reiterated the government’s pledge to achieve three million apprenticeship starts by 2020.

But Mr Pease said tweaks were still needed in the system following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April, to make it “fit for employers and young people”.

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