Skills Minister Matthew Hancock today announced rigorous new vocational courses in engineering and construction for 14- to 16-year-olds as part of the government’s long-term plan for the economy.
The qualifications have been specifically designed by industry leaders and will help Britain’s teenagers compete in the global jobs market.
New engineering courses have been designed by the Royal Academy of Engineering and backed by world-leading businesses like JCB, Rolls-Royce and Siemens. The demanding qualifications focus on engineering design, and electronics and computer control technologies - vital skills for the industry.
Three challenging construction qualifications have also been developed by a 14 to 19 Advisory Committee made up of employers, exam boards, professional bodies and higher and further education.
All these qualifications reflect the skills and knowledge necessary to meet employers’ requirements and the demands of the sector.
They will count in the secondary school performance tables from January 2017 alongside a further 175 high-quality vocational qualifications that meet the government’s new strict requirements. It follows the decision to strip more than 3,000 lower-value qualifications from the tables, following the recommendation in Professor Alison Wolf’s ground-breaking report on vocational qualifications. She highlighted how the current performance table system creates perverse incentives for some schools to put pupils on courses which might boost their table positions - but are not qualifications which benefit pupils’ prospects.
Mr Hancock will announce 73 new qualifications that meet the government’s demanding requirements and will come in to performance tables from January 2017.
These cover a wide range of sectors including computing, health and social care, and digital technology. They are equivalent in value and size to GCSEs.
These qualifications will be taught from September 2014 - and will be included in the 2016 secondary school tables published in January 2017.
Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said:
As part of our long-term plan for the economy, this government is determined to make sure that our qualifications match the best in the world and give young people the best possible start to their future.
High-quality qualifications developed by industry leaders and backed by world-leading businesses will ensure that young people know which courses are the best to study. These new courses are highly ambitious and highly valuable for both young people and employers.
Professor Matthew Harrison, Director of Engineering and Education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:
This announcement really matters to the engineering profession. Four of the qualifications included on the list are the product of deep engagement between awarding bodies, engineering employers, universities and professional engineering institutions. They represent a faithful redevelopment of the much respected 14-19 diploma in engineering as announced by George Osborne and Matthew Hancock in November 2012. This is real partnership working to produce vocational qualifications that really deliver for young people and for engineering in the UK.
Roy Cavanagh MBE, Training and Education Executive at Seddon Construction, said:
We need to give our young people every chance of fulfilling their potential. Employers have already played a major role via the development of qualifications for 14- to 19-year-olds in construction and built environment. This sector accounts for 8 per cent of GDP, employing over two million people across its supply chain. We want to capitalise on the progress that has been made over recent years, seizing the opportunity to create new qualifications which will prepare students for work in the industry.
The new flexible qualifications will offer many exciting openings for students and will ensure they are equipped to match the requirements of employers and have the confidence to succeed.
Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation said:
This sends a strong message to industry that the government is serious about giving vocational education the same esteem as academic learning.
Engineering skills are vital to many firms and the proposed qualifications will allow young people to gain in-depth knowledge and practical experience in this area while also working towards the level of English and maths required by employers. This will be welcomed by manufacturers who are increasingly requiring both academic attainment and relevant work experience.
Schools will remain free to offer any other qualification accredited and approved for study by 14- to 16-year-olds. Teachers will still be able to use their professional judgment to offer the qualifications which they believe are right for their pupils. But only those meeting the department’s rigorous requirements will count in 14 to 16 tables.
The characteristics of high-quality qualifications set out by the government are that:
- they offer pupils proven progression into a broad range of further qualifications or careers post-16, rather than narrowing students’ options
- they are the size of a GCSE or bigger
- they have a substantial proportion of external assessment and require students to use knowledge across their subject
- they have grades such as A*-G (those with simple pass or fail results will be excluded)
- they have good levels of take-up among 14- to 16-year-olds, if taught for at least 2 years