The government has unveiled plans for new technical courses that will attract the same status as A-levels by 2014, subject to attracting business or university support.
The tech-level qualification, designed for 16-19 year olds, will be introduced across England with the aim of offering pupils an top class alternative in vocational education.
But exam boards with aspirations of offering the new qualification, which will take as long to complete as an A-Level, must first get the backing of businesses or universities before the new qualification is approved.
Only level three or advanced qualifications which have the support of businesses or universities will be included in new-look 16 to 19 performance tables from 2016, applicable for young people taking courses from September 2014 onwards.
80% of existing vocational qualifications in this age category will be removed.
Skills minister Matthew Hancock said the new qualifications are a response to the need to narrow the skills gap and address concerns about variable quality.
“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,” he said.
Mr Hancock added: “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.”
Additionally, the introduction of Applied General Qualifications, taking the same time to complete as AS-levels, will focus on a broader study of a specific technical area, not directly linked to an occupation.
These qualifications will need backing from three universities to count in performance tables.
But Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said that although the introduction of Tech-levels is a step in the right direction, it remains wary of how it is perceived.
“We’re facing a critical skills shortage in key industries which risks holding back long-term recovery,” said Neil Carberry, director of employment and skills at the CBI.
“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,” he added.