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More than 200 'vocational A-levels' will be launched from September

More than 200 ‘vocational A levels’ designed to boost skills will be available for young people in England from September, it has been announced.

Skills minister Matthew Hancock revealed an additional 77 new tech levels in addition to the 142 announced last December. Tech levels are designed to be high-quality vocational alternatives to A-levels, which are backed by businesses and trade groups and will count towards school and college league tables.

The new tech levels, including qualifications in agriculture, engineering and IT, are supported by employers including Siemens, BAE and Canon.

In a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research yesterday, Mr Hancock said that the new qualifications would “bridge the gap” between education and employment. “Tech levels ensure young people are prepared to compete in the global jobs market, and give employers a crucial say in what skills they need,” he said.

“The previous system had become bloated with qualifications that were of no value. These have been stripped out of the league tables and now young people can clearly see which courses will give them the vital skills they need to get on in life.”

In his speech the minister said the challenge of helping young people transition from education to employment was a global one, and called on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to carry out an in-depth study into the problem.

Last year the OECD’s first ever international survey of adult skills revealed that young people in the UK are leaving school no better skilled than their grandparents and are lagging behind their peers in other countries.

Of the 22 countries that took part, the UK, represented by data from England and Northern Ireland, was ranked 14th in literacy and 16th in numeracy overall for 16- to 65-year-olds, below average in both categories.

Mr Hancock said: “I believe we need to look again at how the best countries in the world support their young people through the transition from education to work. We need updated and rigorous OECD analysis into policies helping young people to make the transition from education to employment.”

Deborah Ribchester, 14-19 and curriculum senior policy manager at the Association of Colleges, said that the drive to make sure tech-levels are on par with A-levels and valued by employers and HE was welcome.

But, she added: “We are less clear about the purpose of the applied general qualifications and of the value that these will have.

"Schools and colleges will be unclear why some existing vocational qualifications have been put on one list rather than the other and why some highly respected qualifications appear on neither list.

“It is important that colleges understand that all accredited qualifications will still be available, and that they can continue to offer these to their students.

"What is unclear is the impact that this might have on their performance once the new performance measures are introduced.”

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