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Labour plans 'technical degrees'

A Labour government would introduce new "technical degrees", backed by employers and universities, aimed at young people who don't want to study traditional academic subjects, Ed Miliband will say today.

In a speech, the Labour leader is due to say that more needs to be done to help the "forgotten 50%" that do not go on to university.

He is expected to outline Labour's proposals for new practical degree courses, and announce that these qualifications will be the party's priority for the expansion of university places.

These "technical degrees" will be primarily aimed at young people who have already done apprenticeships and vocational qualifications and want to continue down this path, rather than a traditional academic route.

The courses will be co-designed by employers who will sponsor young people taking the qualifications.

Students taking the degrees, who may already have been working for the employer sponsoring them, will be able to earn wages while studying.

Speaking at a summit on vocational education in London, Mr Miliband will say: "For too long governments have believed there is only one way to success through education which is to follow the conventional academic route: to do GCSEs, A-levels, a traditional academic subject at university and then on to career."

This route has worked for many, Mr Miliband will argue, adding he is proud of Labour's record on expanding access to university.

"But that kind of aspiration cannot be limited only to those young people who choose a conventional academic route," he says.

" We must be One Nation, not two, because we know that route doesn't work for everyone and we know as well there have not been clear enough alternatives.

"What do we say to a young person at school thinking about their career for the first time if they don't want to do traditional academic subjects? What is the gold-standard vocational qualification? What should they be aiming for in the long-run? What do they need to do to get there?

"We know other countries get this right. In Germany, there are proper, joined-up qualifications at every level - pathways on to apprenticeships and careers. Where other countries have succeeded, we have failed our young people."

Mr Miliband will tell the summit that a Labour government, working with businesses and employers will "revolutionise learning and training" to build a high-quality, high-skill economy for the future.

Reform of vocational education is central to this plan, he says.

"I can announce today that we will go one step further too by introducing new Technical Degrees as the culmination of our reform agenda for the forgotten 50% who do not currently go to university.

"These courses will be designed together by some of our best universities and our leading employers, teaching people the skills they need to prosper in the new economy.

"For the first time, those who have excelled in vocational education and training will be able to progress further.

"For the first time young people will have the chance to earn while they learn at university with a degree that provides a clear route to a high skilled technical or professional career.

"For the first time employers will be able to people who see their long term future with the firm and then develop their specialist skills so they can succeed together."

Mr Miliband will go on to say: "Mr priority will be for technical degrees, delivered in partnership with business and universities.

"This is a new direction for our country; equal status for vocational qualifications from school to university and beyond; equipping our young people with the skills they need; and providing our country with a reason to be confident for the future so we can compete with the very best economies in the world in a race to the top."

Labour has already announced other measures to overhaul practical training, including a Technical Baccalaureate for 16- to 19-year-olds and a requirement for further education lecturers to hold teaching qualifications.

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