The government is to create a new generation of elite institutions in order to ensure Britain has a world-class vocational education system.
Speaking on the 70th anniversary of the Butler Education Act, skills minister Matthew Hancock underlined the coalition's commitment to new vocational skills programmes.
He said the Butler Act pledged to create vocational schools in addition to grammars and secondary moderns. Only a handful of such schools were built but the present government will ensure vocational training is given the right emphasis.
Mr Hancock said apprenticeships are being reformed by the coalition and will better suit the needs of employers. Higher standards and assessments in English and maths will also make for better training.
From 2015, every child will be in education or training. There will be no strict distinction between the academic and the vocational, as academic subjects will form an essential part of vocational courses. "Rigour and responsiveness" will, however, be demanded from trainees to ensure they meet the required standards.
Mr Hancock hailed the role played by decentralisation in achieving these standards. Colleges should look outwards towards industry and employers, not upwards to the demands of central government, he said.
Several new institutions were announced which will help ensure the government fulfils its vocational education promises. An £18 million Manufacturing Training Centre will be built in Coventry, which will develop cutting-edge engineering skills. It will offer international placements with the best engineering firms.
A HS2 College will create 2,000 apprenticeships and ensure Britain becomes a world leader in infrastructure.
He also announced the creation of a new nuclear college to ensure the industry has the skills it needs for the future, which will see £930 billion spent on new reactors across the world and £250 billion on decommissioning old ones.
Such institutions will create an elite tier of vocational institutions. The academic elite is highly regarded, with Oxford and Cambridge seen as prestigious destinations in the eyes of many - as is evident in the popularity of the Alan Bennett play The History Boys.
The skills minister said the coalition's reforms will ensure vocational education is accorded the same level of respect.
Posted by Alan Douglas