Vocational qualifications

If you are aged between 16 to 19, you may choose to study vocational or technical qualifications either at a Further Education college, sixth form college, in school or other training providers. This could be called NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications), Certificates or Diplomas. Please see separate section on the new T levels, too!

These qualifications are part of a Study Programme. Study programmes are tailored to you, combining studying for qualifications alongside participating in other activities that take into account your achievements to date and your career goals.

For students studying full-time, a study programme will typically include the following:

If you are interested in a specific employment sector, then vocational and technical qualifications could be the right option for you.

Vocational and technical qualifications are designed to help you learn in a practical way about a specific job or industry / employment sector. The qualifications offer a mix of theory and practical learning.

Levels of vocational qualifications:

  • Entry level - early secondary school education
  • Level 1 – equivalent to GCSEs at 3-1 or D-G
  • Level 2 – equivalent to GCSEs at 9-4 or A*-C
  • Level 3 – equivalent to A levels
Vocational qualifications have been designed in collaboration with industry, so they can equip you with the specialist knowledge, understanding and the practical skills that employers are looking for.

Vocational and technical courses prepare you for progression to further study [at college or university], into an apprenticeship or employment.

Vocational qualifications (-not to be confused with T levels) are recognised by employers. They include certificates and diplomas:

  • Level 2 qualifications for students wishing to specialise in a specific industry, occupation or technical role. They equip students with specialist knowledge and skills and provide a route into a skilled trade or occupation where employers recognise entry at this level (for example, construction trades, social care or hairdressing). Technical Certificates also provide progression to employment, T levels or an apprenticeship.
  • Level 3 qualifications: They equip young people with the specialist knowledge and skills they need for a job in occupations ranging from engineering to computing, hospitality to agriculture.
NOTE: You can study vocational and technical qualifications at different levels and the level you study will be dependent on your GCSE grades. You can go to university after studying these qualifications- not just A levels.

Subject areas

Vocational qualifications are available in a range of subjects. The range of subjects offered can vary in different schools, colleges and independent training providers. The UK government group all qualifications into Sector Subject areas, which are a useful starting point as there are thousands of vocational qualifications. Click here to see.

TOP TIPS: If you are considering the vocational route as your next step – then we would advise you to:

  • Start to explore the options available to you - at school as well as on college websites, to explore the courses on offer and the entry requirements
  • Attend open days / or virtual open days to take a tour of the facilities and find out more about the resources, speak to tutors and current students
  • Speak to your school career advisor or career leader if you need further support and advice and guidance.

Supported Internships

Supported internships are a structured study programme based primarily at an employer. They enable young people aged 16-24 with a statement of Special Educational Needs [SEN], or an Education, Health and Care plan [EHCP] to achieve sustainable paid employment by equipping them with the skills they need for work, through learning in the workplace.

Supported internships are unpaid, and last for a minimum of six months.

Wherever possible, they support the young person to move into paid employment at the end of the programme. Alongside their time at the employer, young people complete a personalised study programme which includes the chance to study for relevant substantial qualifications, if appropriate, and English and maths. Resource reference: https://www.preparingforadulthood.org.uk/downloads/supported-internships

Supported Internships offer an opportunity for the young person to develop the skills, experience and confidence they need for employment with support of an expert job coach and substantial work placement.

Your Local Education Authority (local town/borough/metropolitan council) website will publish a SEND Local offer, this will tell you what is available locally. The Preparing for adulthood website provides a Supported internships guide where you can find out more information – click here

For more information on supported internships, click here.