The Countryside Alliance has welcomed the Government’s commitment to technical training ahead of this week’s budget speech by the Chancellor. Over the weekend it was announced that the Government will be conducting an overhaul of post-16 education. The multibillion pound drive to improve technical training will be funded by the Treasury. It is thought that Treasury funding for the new regime will be approximately £500million per year.

Under the new system 16-18 year old’s will choose between 15 standalone courses as opposed to the 13,000 they currently have to choose from. The aim, as reported by the Sunday Telegraph, is to put technical education on a footing with academic studies. The Government’s planned announcement coincides with National Apprenticeship week. The Countryside Alliance welcome’s this commitment to technical training and it complements work that the Alliance is currently carrying out in support of its new Underkeeper apprenticeship that was approved by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills last summer. The Alliance is currently leading a “trailblazer” group with other organisations and employers to develop the course. The Underkeeper course is aimed at securing the future of gamekeeping after concerns were raised by the lack of young people coming through with the skills required. Last year the Alliance learnt that the current system of apprenticeships will end in 2020, with no guarantee that gamekeeping programmes will be part of the new system of qualifications

Commenting on the planned Government announcement, Head of Policy at the Countryside Alliance, Sarah Lee, said:

“The Government’s announcement provides further evidence of how committed it is to putting technical education on an equal footing with academic studies. Though the new “T-levels” will be focused on a different age group than our Underkeeper course. it is reassuring to see how focused the Government continues to be on boosting technical skills.

 “Last July we were delighted that the Government accepted our proposal for a new Underkeeper course and since then we have been working closely to develop the course further. We are hopeful that by the autumn the new course will be ready for subscribers.

 “It is important that the level of land based skills in rural areas is increased. Unfortunately there has been a lack of young people in rural areas coming through with the technical skills needed to support rural economies. We hope that the Underkeeper course will go a small way to tackling this.”

 Head of Shooting at the Alliance, Liam Stokes said:

“Having worked in gamekeepers’ education I know how frustrated many employers are with the current system, which was written by colleges and awarding bodies and inflicts some odd requirements on estates trying to do right by their new keepers.

 “Getting involved in this trailblazer group is a way for employers to ensure that the new apprenticeship reflects the skills they want their gamekeepers to have. There are some really exciting opportunities to direct funding towards the training we feel trainees really need. We look forward to people from across the world of shooting having their say in how this programme should look.”