Employers moan that skilled workers are scarce, especially in industries like engineering and IT.
Tougher immigration restrictions, likely to be introduced when Britain leaves the EU, will exacerbate skills shortages.
The sector has struggled with shoddy qualifications.
The six in ten 18-year-olds who do not take A-levels, academic school-leaving qualifications, are poorly served by a hotch-potch of some 13,000 courses of varying quality.
In 2015 the government commissioned Lord Sainsbury, a Labour peer, to examine the state of technical education in England.
His report, published last year, despaired that a wannabe plumber had to choose between 33 qualifications, offered at three different levels, by five awarding organisations.
Many of the courses are too basic to be much use.
Mr Hammond now aims to clear up this muddle.
Following Lord Sainsbury's recommendations, the government will introduce 15 subject areas, grouping together topics such as social care or transport and logistics.
Students will work towards “T-levels” (for “technical” ) , developed with firms.
Organisations will compete for the right to award the qualification.
The extra funding will provide more work placements.
And those who go on to take degree-equivalent qualifications will have access to loans to cover the cost of living.
Some would rather the reforms offered a broader education to those going down a vocational path, with more of a focus on ensuring competency in maths and English.
But most agree that the first task is simply to resuscitate the sector.