The government unveiled plans for a new ‘tech level’ to run parallel with A Levels, yesterday.
Exam boards wanting to offer the qualification need to get the backing of businesses or universities before the qualification is approved. Five employers, registered with Companies House, are required before getting approval for the qualification to be ranked alongside A Levels in terms of exam league tables.
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The tech level aims to ready young people for the workplace in particular for occupations in engineering, IT, accounting and hospitality.
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Joanna Poplawska, co-founder of the Corporate IT Forum Education and Skills Commission said: “We welcome this announcement as a huge step forward; the commission has persistently called for the government to involve business in the development of IT qualifications.
"But we have questions about the value these new qualifications will bring to young people and employers, and how exactly they will be delivered. We’re pleased that the government is taking action to offer vocational qualifications that will meet the requirements of business.”
According to Poplawska any new qualifications need to be recognised by parents, teachers and businesses alike: “Without support from all three, there will continue to be a lack of young people inspired to pursue the wealth of opportunities available in IT.
“The needs of business are diverse and the proposed tech levels, particularly in computing, must deliver on what is needed for both the supplier and user community.
"We’d therefore like to hear more about the criteria exam boards will use to select the five companies to endorse these qualifications, and how the government will ensure the consistency of standards.”
Poplawska added: “There was also no mention of how the proposals will be supported in terms of funding. Education resources are already stretched and IT is a particular area where a lack of qualified teachers has been identified.
“It is critical that teachers, schools and colleges are supported through these changes to ensure they can deliver quality, technical teaching.”
Neil Carberry, CBI director of employment and skills, said: “We’re facing a critical skills shortage in key industries, which risks holding back long-term recovery – that’s why we’ve been calling for tough new vocational qualifications to help bridge the gap.
“The litmus test is that tech levels offer the gold-standard training that employers’ want, while not being seen as second-class. Courses must have stretching subject knowledge; rigorous assessment; hard-nosed practical experience; and be a stepping stone to a great career.”
Matthew Hancock, the skills minister, said: “Tech levels will recognise rigorous and responsive technical education. High-quality rigorous vocational education is essential to future prosperity and the life chances of millions.
“For the first time we will ensure that exam boards list the employers or universities which support their courses. Only these stretching, strong courses will count in league tables.”