Tech Levels: A step in the right direction

12 Jan 2014

The jobs market in the UK has been improving in recent months, but much more still needs to be done to get young people into long-term, sustainable employment. As government schemes go, the latest attempt to give young people the skills they need, on first impression, doesn’t sound too bad however. Tech Levels, supported by big UK businesses, will train 16-18 year olds to work on certain technical skills, taking a more vocational approach to education.

 

In a way, this is exactly what we need to bring education up-to-date to suit the type of jobs that are currently available. These A-level like qualifications will be introduced for the first time in September this year and will likely make college more practical, enjoyable and interactive. There will be 142 Tech Levels available to all students, of which I’m sure they will only be able to pick a couple. Nevertheless, this gives the student a wide choice to help them progress in whatever career they may choose. Along with 87 further Applied General Qualifications which allow a wider look at the chosen vocational area, these qualifications have already been endorsed by many universities and will see their first graduates in 2016.

Despite the obvious good news of better suited qualifications for the 21st Century however, I can’t help feeling that these may be a way of giving students an alternative to A-Levels which, despite their recognition by employers and universities, have had their reputation questioned over the past few years. As much as I think that Tech Levels are a great idea, past students may feel hard done by the exam boards and government. 

Nevertheless, aside from that issue, I believe that vocational education is a very feasible way forward, teaching practical skills and, as has been proven by these new qualifications, providing the sort of things that many employers and universities look for. 

On top of that, vocational work is a very good way for many students to apply themselves. Without the stress of exams, it enables feedback on their work throughout the course, ensuring that the students can constantly improve. I understand that this may not be the preferred method of education for everyone; however, it does take the pressure off for many. 

Additional to the structure of these new qualifications, I am very glad to see that they will be put into effect immediately. I am not saying that vocational education suits everyone, but it can provide valuable skills for individuals looking to enter the job market, something which is sorely needed with youth unemployment at its current level. 

Overall, the new Tech Levels, for me, will be a very valuable addition to our education system. Practical education is something that I enjoy myself and is much more engaging that sitting in a classroom, listening to a teacher talk about theory. It also fits with what many employers and universities want to see on personal statements and CVs. This, for everyone, is a step in the right direction but let’s not stop walking.

Backbench Minister for Education

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