Semta welcomes plans to give qualifications the same status as A Levels
A leading skills body has urged businesses and universities to support moves to give vocational technical courses the same status as A Levels.
Semta, the sector skills council responsible for 128,000 Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering companies, has welcomed Government plans to raise the status of vocational qualifications in England. It describes the move to directly link them with school performance league tables as a great step forward in demonstrating to young people, their parents and teachers, that the best vocational qualifications offer an equally attractive pathway to a great career and at times are the preferred choice of employer
The government's proposed changes mean only vocational courses that achieve Tech-level status will count in secondary league tables for 16- to 19-year-olds from 2016. Tech-levels will take as long to complete as A-Levels and will need to be endorsed by either a professional association or by five employers registered with Companies House. The qualifications will focus on hands-on practical training, leading to recognised occupations.
Applied General Qualifications will take the same time to complete as AS-levels, not directly linked to an occupation. These qualifications will need backing from three universities to count in performance tables.
Sarah Sillars, OBE, chief executive of Semta said: "This is a very positive development that will really drive recognition of the value of the best vocational qualifications. For some time employers in the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering sector have had concerns that the quality vocational qualifications they have helped to develop and support are not recognised in the same way as traditional academic qualifications.
"There is a pressing need for more young people to study STEM (Science, Technology Engineering, Mathematics) subjects and enter the sector which is experiencing real growth and offers great career opportunities. This action by government will help young people and their parents and teachers see the value employers place on particular vocational qualifications.
"We need the best graduates and young people with practical skills to ensure Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering remains the driving force of the UK's economy. Semta looks forward to working with the Government and employers through proposed Industrial Partnerships and the employers sitting on our regional councils to drive this forward."
Speaking at Leipzig, Simon Bartley, president of WorldSkills International, said it was vital vocational skills were recognised as being just as important as academic qualifications.
"If you need to design an aircraft and need people to build an aircraft, you need people to maintain the aircraft. Those people are coming up through the apprenticeship route; they are not coming through universities.
"We need a mixed economy of skills in every country in the world - academic, theoretical, research and absolutely hands-on practical skills," he said.