Vocational courses for technical subjects such as IT will gain the same recognition as A-levels under new plans revealed by the government. Tech levels, which will be taught from September 2016, will offer more practical skills in subjects such as engineering, IT, accounting and hospitality.
In order to gain a higher status, however, the qualifications must be publicly supported by a professional body or five employers that represent the relevant sector. Current BTEC courses can be upgraded to tech level status if they meet the requirements of the Department for Education and employers.
The UK's skills minister Matthew Hancock, who today outlined the new plans, said that tech levels would increase the quality and industry relevance of vocational courses:
"Tech levels will recognise rigorous and responsive technical education. High-quality rigorous vocational education is essential to future prosperity, and the life chances of millions," he explained. "Because technical education is so important, it is vital the qualifications young people take are stretching, high-quality and support their aspirations."
In addition to backing from companies, qualifications which are not directly linked to an occupation will also need the ‘explicit backing' of three universities. Courses must also demonstrate that they will lead to work, either through apprenticeships or jobs.
Jane Richardson, the director of the European branch of Oracle's "Academy" programme, which helps students gain industry relevant skills, welcomed the news. "Roles which were traditionally non-technical are becoming more IT-centric and the plans to introduce Tech Levels will arm the next generation workforce with the skills they need to succeed", she said.
"Taking positive action such as this will have long term benefits for both the public and private sector and help the UK remain competitive in the global digital economy."
Richard French, director of educational policy at the Chartered Institute for IT also approved of the plans, saying the courses would help the employability of young people: "By developing high quality, highly regarded vocational qualifications that employers want, young people will have the opportunity to develop skills needed to obtain employment," he told V3. "We also welcome the opportunity for greater employer engagement."
Meanwhile, the UK's GCSE ICT curriculum is currently in limbo. Due to be re-branded as ‘Computing', the curriculum for the 2014 academic year is yet to be fully outlined.
V3's Make IT Better campaign has heard from numerous experts on this issue who have said the UK's security and economic prosperity are at stake if enough trained IT experts are not generated by the education system in the country.
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