High-quality technical qualifications and apprenticeships

We are committed to strengthening technical qualifications and apprenticeships in the UK, and we see informing and influencing policy makers and opinion formers as part of our role in securing a lasting, positive impact on the technical education landscape. We do this by sharing the results of our proof-of-principle projects and by commissioning policy-relevant research.

Student working at college
High-quality technical qualifications and apprenticeships

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We welcome the government’s continuing commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Technical Education, chaired by David Sainsbury, which will not only improve, but transform, technical education in England. In the reformed technical education system, young people will be given a choice at 16 between two equally high-quality options: academic and technical. The technical option comprises 15 clear routes to skilled employment and/or higher technical education. All of these routes offer apprenticeships, and 11 of them offer a choice between pursuing an apprenticeship or college-based technical education provision (leading to a T-level qualification) with a significant work placement included. A new national qualification system is being developed for the college-based provision. These 15 routes have been developed based on an analysis of occupations in the labour market, representing a significant shift in focus for structuring technical education. 

We are dedicated to ensuring that the technical qualifications and apprenticeships offered in this new system are high-quality and world-class. Further information about our work on apprenticeships and higher technical education can be found below. 

Priority areas


Many UK apprenticeships are world-class, but there remains more to be done to improve the quality of apprenticeships and ensure they clearly contribute to an exceptional technical education system. Our ongoing projects in this space including the following areas:

  • Identifying how to establish strong integration between end-point assessment and professional registration
  • Understanding why women are under-represented in certain apprenticeships, particularly those in engineering
  • Exploring the strengths and weaknesses of apprenticeship systems in other countries


Higher Technical Education

Technical education at Levels 4 and 5 plays a vital role in supplying highly skilled technicians for the labour market. However, as stated in our response to the Industrial Strategy consultation, technical education at higher levels remains a neglected area of skills policy. Although the Sainsbury Panel report and Post-16 Skills Plan indicated that technical education reform is high on the education policy agenda, higher technical education remains an underrepresented area within educational research, leading to a paucity of evidence available to inform policymaking. 

In order to make evidence-based decisions on the future of this provision, it is crucial that developing this area within education research is prioritised. As part of Gatsby's commitment to developing this evidence base, we have commissioned York Consulting to undertake a preliminary research project about students who pursue qualifications at Levels 4 and 5 in STEM subjects. Through this project, we hope to enhance our understanding of why students pursue these qualifications, the factors they consider when deciding whether to pursue them, and what they aim to do after completing these qualifications, among other related topics.