Young people and adults will have clearer qualification and training routes, as part of a shake up of the post-16 system to remove low-quality qualifications that lack job prospects.
The new system will create two clearly defined paths for people who have completed GCSEs or similar courses: academic, meaning qualifications that primarily lead to further study, and technical, those qualifications that primarily lead to skilled employment. This will mean everyone can see more easily how their studies support their future training or job aspirations.
Apprenticeships, A levels and new T Levels will become the main progression options after GCSEs.
There will continue to be other qualifications on offer, for example in creative and performing arts, but the changes will reduce the number of poor-quality courses or duplication across the system. Qualifications will need to prove they give employers the skills they need or lead to good Higher Education courses, and demonstrate why there is a real need for them to be funded. The reforms come after consultation with the education sector, students and parents and will be phased in from 2023.
Under the new system, employers will also play a key role in helping to design more technical qualifications, so they deliver the skilled workforce businesses and the economy need to build back better from the pandemic.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
Level 3 qualifications include A levels, T Levels and other options such as BTECs and Cambridge Technicals. They are traditionally taken by young people after GCSEs, but also by many adults who wish to upskill or retrain.
There are currently over 4,000 qualifications at level 3 approved for government funding, with multiple qualifications in the same subject areas available – many of which are poor quality and offer little value to students or employers.
This includes over 200 engineering qualifications, over 200 qualifications in building and construction, and 15 plumbing qualifications, ranging from courses that are 170 learning hours to more than 1,800. In comparison, countries with high-performing technical education systems such as Germany and Switzerland offer fewer than 500 technical qualifications in total.
A recent survey also highlighted that employers were unable to fill a quarter of all vacant positions because they could not find people with the right skills. It also showed that over a quarter of young people were leaving further education poorly prepared for the workplace, further underlining the need for qualifications to be high-quality and provide the skills that employers say they need.
Jennifer Coupland, chief executive at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education said:
Ruth Ginever, chief of industrialisation, Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace Division, said:
Mark McClennon, global chief information officer (CIO), Burberry, said:
Lucy Wiltshire, sector lead commercial, Willmott Dixon Interiors, said:
As part of the work to boost access to high-quality level 3 qualifications, the government has already taken action to:
- remove funding for more than 160 duplicate qualifications from August 2020, ensuring that students take the newer, more rigorous versions
- remove funding from August 2021 for more than 2,200 qualifications which are not being taken by anyone each year.
- stop any new qualification at level 3 and below from getting approval for funding from 2020, to avoid adding to the already confusing and complicated system of qualifications already available at these levels.
Since April, adults without a full qualification at Level 3 have also been able to access almost 400 free courses, ranging from engineering to healthcare to conservation, to help them gain in-demand skills and open up job opportunities.
The new streamlined system announced today forms part of the government’s reforms to post-16 education and training as set out in the Skills for Jobs White Paper, which will ensure everyone no matter where they live can gain the skills they need to progress and secure a great career.