Further education colleges are autonomous organisations and, as such, are free to deliver provision to meet the needs of local learners and labour markets.
We have established 36 Skills Advisory Panels across the country to increase understanding of the skills that local employers and labour markets need and to work with colleges to help ensure that they align with their provision better. At a national level, we are establishing an independent Skills and Productivity Board (SPB), which will give ministers advice on where the skills system can add the most value, identify areas of potential skills shortage and support us in identifying the training which best equips people for work in the future.
We have made substantial spending commitments on maths, digital and technical education and we are also encouraging more students into STEM, from primary school to higher education. The life sciences are covered in school as part of the science curriculum and qualifications. Science is a compulsory subject for key stages 1 to 4 (ages 5 to 16), and the National Curriculum ensures that all pupils in state-maintained schools are given a firm foundation for the future study of biology and life sciences at further and higher education.
In post-16 education, students are able to continue to study sciences such as biology at A level. The department is supporting further uptake of science A levels through a range of programmes. This includes support to schools to increase provision of GCSE triple science as we know that those students who study GCSE triple science are more likely to study science at A level. From 2010 to 2019, we have seen a 19% increase in entries to Biological Science A level.
Schools and colleges are required to provide independent and impartial careers guidance for 11 year olds to 18 year olds on the full range of education and training options. Careers programmes are developed in line with the Gatsby Benchmarks of Good Careers Guidance, which means that every young person has opportunities to meet employers and providers and to receive personal guidance from a qualified careers adviser to help them choose the right education and career path. The role of the National Careers Service is to deliver independent and impartial careers advice to young people and adults, ensuring that those customers are linked into relevant local Labour Market Information.
The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy highlighted the need to increase uptake of life science apprenticeships. The government provided £1.5 million of funding for the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community to allow for key skills gaps to be addressed with high quality apprenticeships. Life science apprenticeship standards already available for delivery include the bioinformatics scientist and clinical trials specialist standards.