Higher Technical Qualification: How to liberate employers and skill workers for the future

In partnership with Policy Connect


5th December 2023

Download the full report here

The Centre for Education and Youth is delighted to publish a new report on Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs) with Policy Connect.

What are Higher Technical Qualifications?

Skills are a central part of current educational and industrial policy. However, analysts have long identified numerous deficiencies in the UK’s technical education offer, leaving many adults and young people lacking the skills they need to contribute to and thrive in an increasingly automated and green economy.

Our report, “Higher Technical Qualification: How to liberate employers and skill workers for the future”, finds that HTQs can play a critical role in improving the UK’s skills pipeline. HTQs are technical qualifications that provide an alternative to degrees or apprenticeships. They are in principle aimed at learners who want a more practical, employer-led approach to acquiring vocational skills. However, HTQs also involve taught elements that are delivered in an institution or school setting and consequently have more of a “classroom” component than most apprenticeships.

How can uptake of and engagement with Higher Technical Qualifications be improved?

Despite their promise, HTQs have struggled with uptake from students and engagement from employers. Our report drew on three roundtables, 13 interviews and written submissions from experts from industry, technical education and research to understand barriers to the growth and success of HTQs. Our report finds that there is:

  • Widespread lack of awareness over HTQs among employers, especially as distinctive from apprenticeships as a vocational route
  • A set of financial disincentives for employers and individuals to pursue HTQs as an option for mid-career upskilling or reskilling. For example, the ringfencing of the Apprenticeship Levy so that it can only be spent on apprenticeships tilts the behaviour of large employers towards using apprenticeships instead of HTQs as a pathway for upskilling and reskilling
  • Uncertainty among both employers and student about the employability value of HTQs, with graduates of courses often finding that employers in their sector do not recognise their qualification

In order to improve the uptake and impact of HTQs, our report makes five key recommendations:

  1. The government should follow a phased approach that provides an opportunity for gradual development of recognition of the value of the HTQs
  2. Employers should be given greater ease and ability to spend the Apprenticeship Levy
  3. The Government should encourage the use of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement for HTQs by removing barriers to their use, such as minimum eligibility requirements and equivalent or lower qualification restrictions
  4. The government should develop a joined-up approach between the relevant actors at the local level to improve coordination between supply and demand for HTQs
  5. The government should accredit modularised qualifications to enable mid-career upskilling and reskilling through HTQs

To discuss this report further or learn more about The Centre for Education and Youth’s research and policy priorities on skills, please get in touch with CfEY Head of Policy and report author, Baz Ramaiah.

In partnership with: