Theresa May has announced the government is investing £170 million in new "prestigious" institutes of technology as part of her industrial strategy for post-Brexit Britain.
The strategy will also include plans to use the free school model to set up specialist maths schools, building on the Exeter and King's College London Mathematics Schools.
The prime minister said the move was about ensuring that the half of all young people who do not go to university get the same opportunities and respect as graduates.
The institutes of technology will deliver education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
Thousands of technical qualifications, many of which the government sees as low quality, will be replaced with 15 core technical "routes" designed to meet the needs of industry and teach skills in demand from local employers.
'Parity of aspiration'
A new Ucas-style system of searching and applying for technical courses may be introduced to give interested young people clearer information and better support, creating a "genuine parity of aspiration" with university students.
And the government will test moves to encourage lifelong learning, particularly in areas where industries are changing or in decline, including a review of whether to introduce maintenance loans for higher technical education.
Mrs May said: "Our modern industrial strategy is a critical part of our plan for post-Brexit Britain.
"Our action will help ensure young people develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future.
"That means boosting technical education and ensuring we extend the same opportunity and respect we give university graduates to those people who pursue technical routes."
She will launch the strategy at her first regional cabinet meeting, in the North West of England, on Monday. The move is aimed at improving living standards, productivity and the spread of economic growth around the UK.
A review by Professor Sir Adrian Smith will set out proposals to incentivise growth in the number of graduates in Stem subjects and address regional imbalances in the number of students progressing to higher-level qualifications.
Commenting on the plans, which will be outlined in a Green Paper, business secretary Greg Clark said: "The UK has some of the best universities in the world and our schools are improving, yet for too long technical education for school leavers has been neglected – with large differences in skill levels between regions.
"We must improve skills and opportunities so we can close the gap between the best people, places and businesses and the rest.
"It is about making our country one of the most competitive places in the world to start and grow a business. We are inviting people throughout the UK to contribute to this work to create a high-skilled economy that works for everyone."
Commons Education Committee chair Neil Carmichael welcomed the announcement and said it could help Britain "go a long way" towards filling its 82,000-strong annual engineering skills gap.
The Tory MP also welcomed the move towards a Ucas-style system for technical education.
"This is excellent news in my mind," he told the Press Association. "Stem subjects are exactly what we should be focusing on and high quality prestigious technical colleges, absolutely right."
Toby Young, the director of New School Network, said: “I welcome the news that the government wants to see more of these specialist free schools set up. Every city in England should have a sixth form of this type so children who want to specialise in maths, technology, science and engineering at A level have access to the very best teaching, regardless of their background.
“If Britain is going to make a success of Brexit, we need more schools like the King’s College London Maths School.”