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Introducing the ‘Tech Level’

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  1. Acorn Newsbot

    Acorn Newsbot Junior Member

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    The Government has released plans to introduce a brand new qualification for students to consider studying alongside, or instead of, A-levels. Known as ‘Tech Levels’, these new qualifications focus on vocational skills rather than traditional academic learning.

    What will Tech Levels involve?
    Tech Levels will be different from current vocational qualifications in that the courses will need to be recognised and approved by professional bodies, rather than an exam board. The idea is to create courses that can demonstrate real world value by having would-be employers confirm the content as being genuinely useful to candidates in the workplace.

    This change in course creation requirements is expected to see 80% of existing vocational courses disappearing from sixth form colleges when the Tech Levels are introduced. Other vocational courses may still be studied, but they will not be included in examination league tables, making it very unlikely that colleges will continue to offer them.

    Tech Levels will be available in several industries, including IT, engineering, accounting and hospitality. Others may become available if colleges and course providers can obtain the support of three universities, confirming content quality.

    Why are they needed?
    The new Tech Levels are designed to be a direct response to skills shortages in the UK, and to combat accusations of ‘Mickey Mouse’ qualifications that yield little benefit to students after graduation. The IT industry is particularly concerned about skills shortages, with recent reports suggesting that some sections are facing a shortfall in suitably qualified candidates that may last as long as 20 years.

    IT qualifications have long been criticised for being too generalised, outdated, or simply failing to impart the skills and knowledge that graduates need to succeed in the marketplace. Employers are also rightly concerned that these candidates will be unable to fully benefit their businesses, leading them to look elsewhere for better trained staff with more complete skillsets.

    IT managers believe that the skills shortages are not only forcing them to look abroad for suitably qualified candidates, but that their businesses are unable to keep up with industry changes. The shortages are therefore being blamed for an inability to perform on the world stage, creating problems that affect not only the business, but also the wider economy.

    The Tech Levels are also hoped to address a second issue in the IT industry:* the gender imbalances in the workforce. Men outnumber women significantly within the profession, particularly in the upper echelons of management.

    A survey by Computer Weekly magazine discovered that 93% of the CIOs (Chief Information Officer – a board level IT position) questioned were men. The respondents also revealed that 33% of those questioned did not employ any women in technology or leadership roles within their companies.

    The Tech Level is intended to increase interest in IT among female students, dispelling some of the misconceptions surrounding computer science jobs. It is thought that by emphasising employability and teaching genuine skills, young women may be encouraged to consider careers in IT.

    More Tech Level details
    The fact that this new approach to courses includes industry approval helps ensure that the new qualifications will carry weight with employers. Announcing the plans, the Department for Education (DfE) says it expects the qualifications to hold the same academic weight as a traditional A-level.

    The Tech Level will also play an important part in counting towards another new portfolio certificate, the Technical Baccalaureate. The Tech Level is one of three course components required for the Baccalaureate, the others being a recognised maths course and an “extended project”, which is designed to test general competency in other important areas such as writing, communication and research.

    It is hoped that this wider approach to qualifications will help students develop the softer skills of communication, as well as a good grounding in the basics of maths and English. The DfE is trying to make it clear that the Technology Baccalaureate is not a qualification as such, but a way for students to demonstrate a broad set of skills that are of direct benefit to employers. The “Tech Bacc” is also intended to measure the performance of the student’s college for league table purposes from 2017. Graduates themselves will be far more interested in showing employers that they possess a broad, basic skillset, equipping them to be productive in the workplace.

    Speaking of the Tech Level plans, Skills minister Matthew Hancock 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. Because technical education is so important, it is vital the qualifications young people take are stretching, high-quality and support their aspirations. These reforms are unashamedly aspirational and will ensure Tech Levels help people into apprenticeships and jobs.”

    Employers have also been keen to welcome the new qualification. Neil Carberry, director of employment and skills at the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) said, “Including the Tech Bacc in existing league tables will help put vocational subjects on a par with academic A-levels. Business prefers this approach, rather than creating another new qualification which would struggle for recognition - like the Diploma did. We hope this will prove to be a staging point towards our ultimate goal of rigorous vocational A-levels.”

    By giving Tech Levels the same recognition as A-levels, employers and politicians alike are hopeful that students and colleges will encourage greater take-up, and avoid the stigma that came with previous vocational qualifications. ‘Level 3’ NVQ subjects are currently taken by 185,000 students, but the Tech Level is hoped to boost these numbers further when the qualification launches in 2016.

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    Acorn Domains Elite Member

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