An alliance between vocational awarding body City & Guilds and IT trade body CompTIA is promising to bridge the gap between industry and academia, and address ongoing skills gaps across the industry.
The two organisations will align their qualifications to allow students who achieve the City & Guilds e-Quals Diploma in Systems Support (Level 2) to sit the CompTIA A+ examination without additional training.
The deal means that students will be able to gain two qualifications by following the government-funded e-Quals programme.
CompTIA is also finalising details of a new academic pricing model, due to be launched in the first quarter this year.
Further tie-ups between City & Guilds and other CompTIA qualifications are also possible, according to a spokeswoman from City & Guilds. The body said IT courses are its most popular, with over 100,000 candidates currently studying for such qualifications.
The CompTIA A+ certification validates the vendor-neutral skills expected of an entry-level computer technician.
These include a broad base of competency in core hardware and operating system technologies such as installation, configuration, diagnosis, preventive maintenance and basic networking.
Eleanor Byram, product manager at City & Guilds, said: "Being able to award a combined learning experience from City & Guilds and CompTIA means that we can now offer students a greater starting point for their careers in IT.
"There's a wealth of IT qualifications. With this tie-up we're hoping to clarify some of the pathways and make sense of what's out there.
"A+ is a recognised benchmark within the commercial IT industry, so not only can we now offer a significant stepping stone to vendor specific certifications but our link with CompTIA adds to the global credibility of our vendor-neutral certifications."
CompTIA director Matthew Poyiadgi added that the move represents an important leap forward for the education and training industries.
"Through the alliance, we hope to offer students a more valuable start in the IT industry with this combined learning route," he said.
John Eary, head of the NCC Skills Source Consultancy, welcomed the announcement.
"Apart from diligent personnel people, most employers aren't aware what City & Guilds is all about," he explained.
"We need to reduce the myriad IT qualifications out there, but the industry has taken a long time to get its act together because there are a lot of vested interests."
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