What are vocational qualifications?
Vocational courses are designed to help you learn in a practical way about a specific job area. They can help you get the skills you need to start a job, progress in a career or go on to higher education.
If you know what job or job sector you want to go into you may want to study a vocational qualification.
There are many different types of vocational qualifications in a wide range of subjects at all levels, from Entry Level right up to Level 8 - you can look at the Careerpilot Qualification Planner to view all the different qualifications and levels.
Different vocational course options:
Job related subjects
Vocational subjects are general qualifications that develop practical skills and knowledge related to a broad job area such as Business, Engineering, IT and Health and Social Care. They are offered in both schools and colleges. They include a significant amount of classroom-based activities. Assessment is usually by both written and practical examinations. These qualifications are known as Applied General Qualifications and can be taken on their own or alongside other qualifications such as A level. Examples of these qualifications include BTEC and Cambridge Technicals.
Vocational courses provide specific job related training and qualifications such as in plumbing, hairdressing or catering. These courses are offered at Further Education Colleges. They are usually very practical and involve learning in real situations, with real customers, such as cutting hair in the college salon which will be open to the public, cooking for paying customers in the college restaurant or installing bathrooms in the plumbing workshops. They usually lead on to work or relevant apprenticeships.
If you work towards a specific job as an apprentice you will do theoretical and relevant practical qualifications alongside gaining experience of the job. Examples of these are City and Guilds and NVQs. You may do these qualifications 'on the job' online or at a college on a block or day release.
The government is making significant changes to vocational qualifications. Between 2020 and 2022 they are introducing the new T level qualifications which will be equivalent to A levels.
The government are also reviewing some general vocational qualifications, as they want to streamline what's on offer. In the future, choices at 16 are likely to be: T Levels, A levels or an Apprenticeships so BTECs and similar qualifications will become part of T Levels.
Which colleges are doing T Levels in 2020?
Only a few colleges are offering the new T Levels in 2020. such as:
Cirencester - Child care, Construction, Digital Production, Design and Development
Truro and Penwith - Digital production, design and development, Design, surveying and planning, Education
Exeter College - Education, Design, surveying and planning
Bridgwater & Taunton College - Digital production, design and development, Design, surveying and planning, Education
Strode College - Digital production, design and development, Education
Weston College - Digital production, design and development
Peter Symonds College - Education and Childcare
Fareham College - Digital production, design and development, Education
Havant and South Downs College - Digital production, design and development, Design, surveying and planning, Education
Farnborough College of Technology - Digital production, design and development, Education
Eventually, students will be able to take a T Level in the following subject areas:
- agriculture, land management and production
- animal care and management
- building services engineering
- craft and design
- cultural heritage and visitor attractions
- design and development
- design, surveying and planning
- digital business services
- digital production, design and development
- digital support and services
- hair, beauty and aesthetics
- healthcare science
- human resources
- maintenance, installation and repair
- management and administration
- manufacturing, processing and control
- media, broadcast and production
- onsite construction
When can I take a vocational qualification and where will they lead?
Some schools offer vocational qualifications alongside your GCSE subjects. However, vocational qualifications are mainly for 16 to 19 year olds.
qualifications have been designed in partnership with employers,
universities and professional or trade organisations - this means that
you can develop the skills that employers want. You can also acquire the
knowledge needed to progress to a higher level - such as a degree level
courses or apprenticeships.
Careerpilot has information on lots of different job sectors. Each sector has hundreds of job profiles explaining what is involved, what you will earn, routes into the job, etc.
How do they compare?
- Level 1 vocational qualifications build confidence and help people prepare for further learning and work.
- Level 2 vocational qualifications are the equivalent of GCSE grades 9 to 4.
- Level 3 vocational qualifications are equivalent to A levels.
- Level 4 and 5 vocational qualifications are equivalent to a Foundation Degree.
- Level 6 vocational qualifications are equivalent to an honours degree. See vocational qualifications in a diagram alongside other qualifications.
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