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Fresh exchanges in row over skills

The Gibraltar Government and GSD have again clashed over the state of skills training and apprenticeships in Gibraltar.

As the row rumbled on yesterday, the GSD said the Government had failed to provide reassurance to those in the community who are concerned about a ‘serious cliff edge’.

Additionally the party said it would commit to the introduction of degree apprenticeships as part of wider and deeper approach to educational reform.

But, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo lambasted the Opposition over its “further erroneous statement” on the subject.

For its part the GSD said the Government's promises in relation to 'T' Levels remains unfulfilled despite being announced two years ago.

In a statement the party said: “Surely one Minister in a Government of 10 could have been tasked with expediting this important area of domestic policy.”

It urged the Government to listen to parents and young people “instead of hurling abuse at the Opposition in this patio style of politics”.

The GSD said that despite Brexit, the UK by comparison, has issued comprehensive guidance on 'T' Levels as an alternative to 'A' Levels back in March last year and 54 institutions will pilot 'T' Levels during roll out over the next two years.

But, despite being pressed by the Opposition on 'T' Levels, the GSD said the Government has not released any guidance to the community setting out how this will be achieved and, importantly, the cost to the public purse of rolling out 'T' Levels as an alternative to A Levels.

According to the party, a GSD Government would do more and it would link 'T' Levels to Degree Apprenticeship which provide a real throughput of skills needed in the community to inspire a generation of young people desperately looking for alternatives.

“We will engage closely with educators and the University to identify synergies that exist and make full use of the resources available to make this ambitious and important project a reality.”

The Leader of the Opposition, Elliott Phillips said: “We are committed to a holistic approach which provides a gold standard in training to enable our young people to grasp the opportunities that exist in the global digital world.

Our people need to be the first choice for employers and we can only do that through seriously advancing skills training.”

“The Government have simply repeated hollow promises in relation 'T' Levels. Our educators, parents and young people would benefit from comprehensive consultation and ultimately guidance on how the Government intends to roll out their strategy.”

“Whilst we would support the integration of 'T' Levels it must be part of wider and deeper approach to educational reform and opportunity by linking it to Degree Apprenticeships.”

“The Government must re-think this area completely and we stand ready to work with them to develop a national training and apprenticeship strategy for the benefit of all in our community.”

“The Government must also accept that it's now "Failed Job Strategy" which costs the tax payer £10 Million a year since 2011 has done nothing to build a highly skilled workforce to meet the needs of young people and business.”

In hitting back Mr Picardo insisted Mr Phillip's statements were “factually wrong”.

“He fails to understand even the basics. Mr Phillips is paid over £40,000 a year by the taxpayer and the least he could do it get the facts right before adding his comments.”

“Technical Levels are new courses which are being developed in the UK as an alternative to A Levels and will be available as from 2020.”

“They will be phased in from the 2020 to 2021 academic year with a small number of providers. The first T Levels will be piloted during September 2020 at selected providers in the UK. The initial subject areas will be construction, digital, and education and childcare.”

“But because T Levels are still being collaboratively developed in the UK, it is not possible for us - and it would not be possible for the GSD - to have introduced them any earlier. T Level content has not been finalised to date,” Mr Picardo said adding that the awarding organisations have yet to be appointed.

“A procurement exercise was launched in the UK in September 2018 to identify awarding organisations to develop the full content and assessments for the core and occupational specialisms of the first three T Levels.”

“In Gibraltar we have already, however, been proactive and we have developed a progressive age 14-19 vocational curriculum framework.”

“The framework will support the implementation of the T Levels immediately they are ready.”

“This prepares us for a new, vocational, technical standard in education, providing modern, fit for purpose technical education preparing students better for the courses we have been offering and which are delivering fuller employment than in any developed economy in the world.”

“Mr Phillip's criticism is therefore entirely misplaced and suggesting action outside the realms of what it is in fact possible,” he said adding: “He should accept that and not embarrass himself with a further erroneous press release.”

“As the parliamentary leader of the party that had hundreds on half the minimum wage on a putative 'Youth Training Scheme' and at least 400 unemployed, Mr Phillips has a lot to keep quiet about and nothing to pontificate about."