Prime Minister Theresa May has unveiled a big investment program aimed at increasing the accessibility of technical training in the UK. Inside Higher Education reports:
The British government has announced a 170 million pound ($213 million) series of prestigious Institutes of Technology are to be developed to offer a “credible alternative” to the academic route of university for young people.
As part of Prime Minister Theresa May’s industrial strategy unveiled this week, technical education will get a radical shake-up to “level the playing field” for those who do not go to university. […]
A senior government source reportedly said that May thought it was “unwise to force less academic pupils into the straitjacket of university, leaving them drowning in debt for the sake of a poor degree — particularly when we have a chronic shortage of British plumbers and engineers.”
The British higher education system is very different from America’s: cheaper, more heavily subsidized, and aimed at imparting more detailed knowledge in a specific area. But many of the challenges May’s governments is concerned about exist in the U.S. as well: High and rising debt levels, poor quality degrees, an unfair labor market advantage for students who had the opportunity to earn a BA, and a shortage of people competent perform high-paying technical jobs that don’t require a regular college degree.
Populist and reform-minded American politicians should take note of May’s effort. Many U.S. policymakers, especially on the Democratic side, are tempted to “increase access” to higher education by increasing subsidies for our existing system. But in many cases, that money would be better spent imparting highly valuable skills to young people who are not ready or simply not interested in grinding away for four years in the Ivory Tower after graduating from high school.