The target to get 50% of young people into university is set to be formally abandoned as part of a drive to expand vocational education.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will use this week’s mini-Budget to announce funding for a huge expansion in apprenticeships.
With youngsters facing what is set to be the most difficult jobs market for a generation, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will also launch a major push to expand further education.
Williamson is expected to formally abandon the 50% target this week and focus on improving access to high-quality practical and vocational courses at college.
Boris Johnson said this week he wanted to offer an ‘opportunity guarantee’ to all young people amid fears that the recession sparked by the lockdown could see unemployment soar past 3mn.
A study by the IPPR think-tank forecast that unemployment among under-25s would more than double from 420,000 to just over 1mn by the end of the year.
Large firms are already encouraged to offer youth training by the Apprenticeship Levy.
But this week Sunak is expected to offer cash payments to small firms for each apprentice they take on.
Ministers hope the scheme will lead to a massive expansion in the availability of apprenticeships and allow every young person who wants one to get a place.
The 50% university target was first set in 1999 and was finally achieved in 2017.
Although now in abeyance, sources said it had continued to drive education policy.
“There has been an unhealthy obsession with the 50% target,” a government source said.”Of course we want people to be able to go to university but we should not be trying to inflate the numbers artificially. All the time the focus has been on the target, no one has been talking about the 50% of young people who don’t go to university. That is going to change.”
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