Further Education, as it stands, too often badly prepares already disadvantaged young people for working life. FE qualifications are ill-regarded by and confusing to employers, with hundreds of examination boards. FE teaching staff (who are increasingly sessional staff contracted by the semester) are underpaid, unprotected, and overworked. FE is overwhelmingly populated by culturally and economically deprived young people whose loss is only amplified by their participation in this system. It contributes to underemployment and deepens alienation.
We need to invest in a viable alternative to HE – both for students, and the UK economy.
While manufacturing will be less important, many practical fields retain tremendous value – e.g., design; computer/software design/programming; green technologies; bio-tech; 'business' (accounting, marketing/e-marketing; retail banking); construction craft (could include basic planning); health sector work, arts (yes! they can make money, just go to London's West End).
In many countries, it isn't shameful to have graduated from a polytechnic/college. Particularly when they are supported by investment and high standards.