It is fair to say that the 2017 Budget was light on big infrastructure announcements. But, the Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s announcement of £500m additional funding for technical qualifications could provide a significant long-term boost to the development and infrastructure sector.
These ‘T levels’, as they are being known, are technical, as opposed to academic, qualifications, which the Government rightly see as essential to delivering the skills needed for a modern industrial strategy. For example, the 15 sectors being developed for T levels include construction and engineering.
This initiative reflects a desire to tackle historic underinvestment in this field; underinvestment that also seems to have had a knock on effect on public understanding about the benefits to wider society of infrastructure. Our independent survey of attitudes to infrastructure in Great Britain found that most British people see infrastructure as happening ‘to’ them rather than ‘for’ them; they want to see world-class infrastructure but they also want to know more about it and to feel involved.
It will therefore be crucial that this new generation of technical graduates – ‘generation T’ – are not just equipped with skills but also an understanding of the benefits of the infrastructure they are building. The T level curriculum and the National Infrastructure Plan could work hand in hand in pursuit of this goal; as the former equips the next generation with the capability to deliver Britain’s world-class infrastructure, the latter helps it explain why this needs to occur and how it will benefit all of our lives.
By empowering generation T with the knowledge of why we need infrastructure and the technical ability to deliver it, they can become its champions. This will help it become more acceptable to society at large and make the need case for infrastructure all that more powerful.