The government has announced a new injection of cash into technical education as part of her plan for an industrial strategy for the UK as it leaves the EU.
Prime Minister Theresa May will launch the £170m in new funding when she unveils a Green Paper consultation on the industrial strategy during a trip to the North West of England on Monday.
The money will be used to provide training for the “high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future,” she said, while also aiming at tackling regional differences in performance.
The government plans to open Institutes of Technology to provide higher-level, non-university education in science, technology, engineering and maths (also known as Stem) subjects. It hopes to boost the prestige of non-academic subjects in the process.
All technical qualifications will be narrowed down to only 15 “routes”, with a specific focus on students’ employment prospects, the government said.
The plans are part of May’s efforts to put her own stamp on policy as the UK prepares to leave the EU.
The relatively short period between the EU referendum and May’s assumption of office meant there was little time for her to differentiate herself from policies under David Cameron.
An industrial strategy is part of those efforts, as she merged the government departments for energy and business to form the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in July. Some Conservative party members with an aversion to government intervention have expressed disquiet with the concept, but the Prime Minister has insisted the strategy will not involve “picking winners”.
The spending on technical education comes as part of a concerted effort to boost the UK’s productivity. In the Autumn Statement in November chancellor Philip Hammond announced a national productivity investment fund of £23bn.
The UK’s productivity growth has been weak relative to many other competitor countries since before the financial crisis. Economists doubt whether the government alone will be able to close that gap.
May said: “Our modern industrial strategy is a critical part of our plan for post-Brexit Britain. As we leave the EU it will help us grasp the bigger prize: the chance to build that stronger, fairer Britain that stands tall in the world and is set up to succeed in the long-term.”