Press release

New TechBacc will give vocational education the high status it deserves

The technical baccalaureate measure is announced. It provides an alternative to the A level study route for post-16 education.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
teenagers with hardhats at national grid

The government today underlined its commitment to high-quality vocational and occupational education by announcing a new technical baccalaureate measure.

The TechBacc will be a performance measure marking achievement by young people aged 16 to 19 in 3 areas.

Mr Hancock said it would be rigorous and challenging, finally giving vocational education the high status it deserves - putting it on a par with A level study and recognising excellence.

He added it would give bright young people aspiring to a vocational career a first-class alternative to the more traditional A level route, ensuring they have the technical ability employers want, and giving Britain the skilled workforce it needs to compete in the global race.

It will be introduced for courses beginning in September 2014, reported for the first time in the college and school sixth-form performance tables in January 2017.

The 3 elements are:

  • a high-quality level 3 vocational qualification - only the best courses, recognised by employers, will continue to count in league tables; a list of these courses will be published towards the end of the year
  • a level 3 ‘core maths’ qualification, including AS level maths (further information about core maths courses for post-16 students will be published by the Department for Education (DfE) in due course)
  • the extended project, which will develop and test students’ skills in extended writing, communication, research, and self-discipline and self-motivation

Mr Hancock said vocational training already enjoyed this level of esteem in Germany, Japan and South Korea, and said the TechBacc would enable students in England to compete in the global race, giving them the skills that employers need.

There was a threefold increase in the number of students taking level 3 vocational qualifications between 2001 and 2011. But the UKCES employer skills survey of 2011 said employers reported that 1 in 5 vacancies in associate professional roles (eg science and engineering technicians, IT technicians, paramedics) are because of skills shortages.

Matthew Hancock said that young people who achieved the TechBacc would have a set of qualifications that stood them in good stead to get good jobs, take apprenticeships, or go on to further study, including technical courses at university.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said:

The TechBacc will be a mark of achievement for young people who successfully study three key elements – a rigorous high-quality vocational course, maths and literacy. We are being clear to our young people about the skills they need to succeed and get good jobs. We want an education system in which everyone can reach their potential.

Our reforms to post-16 qualifications, including the introduction of the new TechBacc will do that. They will incentivise the development of high-quality courses and incentivise schools and colleges to offer the courses that get young people on in life.

We expect all bright students who want to go into technically skilled jobs or apprenticeships to aim for the TechBacc.

The TechBacc represents one of the final stages in the government’s work over the past 2 years to implement, in full, the 27 recommendations of Professor Alison Wolf’s ground-breaking review of vocational education. All recommendations have been implemented or are being implemented.

Her report in 2011 found that ‘at least 350,000 young people in a given 16-19 cohort are poorly served by current arrangements. Their programmes and experiences fail to promote progression into either stable, paid employment or higher level education and training in a consistent or an effective way’.

Professor Alison Wolf said:

A really good and practical vocational course, allied to strong English and maths, can provide a fantastic start to adult life. I am delighted that the government is recognising this. The introduction of the TechBacc will encourage colleges and schools to offer a programme that combines all three at a high level, and this is excellent news for vocational education.

James Wates, CBE, FCIOB, FRSA, the chairman of Wates, and chairman of the Construction Industry Training Board, said:

I am very pleased to be involved in supporting the technical baccalaureate. In order to compete in the global economy, UK construction companies urgently need more young people to better understand the essential role and potential of technology in business. I want to help ensure that what young people learn is an intrinsic part of fostering the workforce of the future.

Bridget Bartlett, the chief operating officer of the Chartered Institute of Building, said:

The 16 to 19 reforms are a major step toward promoting the value of applied learning, improving employability and providing for social mobility through pathways to the professions.

A significant proportion of new jobs expected to be created by 2020 are professional. These important reforms will help young people to develop the knowledge and technical skills necessary to succeed in a competitive global economy. We need to give all our youngsters, whatever their ability every possible chance of fulfilling their potential and I am delighted to welcome this imaginative development.

Roy Cavanagh MBE, training and education executive, Seddon, said:

We want to inspire students to a future in the construction and built environment sectors and to study subjects that they can have the confidence in knowing they will be equipped to match the requirements of employers.

We have all been focused on the same priorities:

  • the need for young people to understand technology in the context of business and society
  • the need to increase standards of English and maths
  • the importance of developing interpersonal skills
  • a passion for continued learning throughout life

In 2011 around 1 in 4 current students in further education (320,000 young people) studied advanced vocational qualifications having already passed maths and English at GCSE before entering post-16 education. The Department for Education expects a large number of these to be taking a combination of courses that could qualify them for the TechBacc. The department is developing maths courses to meet demand, including a new core maths qualification offered from 2015.

The occupations most suited to young people achieving the TechBacc would be those requiring significant theory and knowledge, including:

  • STEM technicians (eg laboratory technicians, IT technicians, various engineering technician roles, construction professionals)
  • service technicians (retail and hospitality management, personal services, junior accounting positions)
  • creative technicians (digital media, other media, creative industries, sport industry, material/textiles, design)

The TechBacc builds on previously announced Department for Education policies strengthening vocational education, including:

  • university technical colleges

Last month the government announced that 13 new university technical colleges (UTCs) will open from September 2014. They join 27 already preparing to open and 5 currently open. UTCs are academies for 14- to 19-year-olds which focus on delivering technical education that engages young people and meets the needs of modern business.

  • studio schools

Thirteen new studio schools will open from September 2014. There are 15 already preparing to open and 16 currently open. Studio schools allow 14- to 19-year-olds to study academic subjects through practical projects designed and delivered by employer.

DfE enquiries

Central newsdesk - for journalists 020 7783 8300

General enquiries - for members of the public 0370 000 2288

*[UKCES] UK Commission for Employment and Skills

Published 22 April 2013