Tech Levels and Applied General Qualifications will range from motorcycle maintenance to patisserie baking
A new range of A-level standard vocational qualifications – ranging from motorcycle maintenance to patisserie baking – has been launched with the backing of leading employers as part of the government's efforts to drive up the skills of youngsters in England.
The first 142 Tech Levels have the support of businesses or trade groups, which ministers hope will boost the chances of young people striving for jobs against global competition.
A range of 87 Applied General Qualifications (AGQs), covering wider business areas and endorsed by at least three universities, has also been announced as part of the shake-up of vocational education.
Tech Levels and AGQs will be the only vocational qualifications which will count in 16-19 league tables from 2016 (for those starting courses in September 2014). More than 91% of the 3,721 vocational qualifications currently approved for teaching will be stripped out of the tables as ministers seek to encourage students to take the courses most likely to lead to jobs.
Young people will still be able to take the other qualifications, but only the approved courses will be included in the 2016 tables.
Skills minister Matthew Hancock said: "We must be honest with our young people. For too long, too many students have been taking qualifications that do not help them get a job, into training, or to university.
"Our radical reforms are part of our long-term plan for the economy and will mean that for the first time young people will know which qualifications are backed by top employers and lead to better employment opportunities.
"Tech Levels and Applied General Qualifications will give students the skills so vital to getting on in life, preparing them for employment, training and higher education. This will also help meet the skills gap holding back UK businesses."
Among the new Tech Levels is a diploma in professional patisserie and confectionery, which has the backing of the Calcot Manor country hotel in the Cotswolds.
Kawasaki has endorsed a diploma in motorcycle maintenance and repair principles, and the Royal Ballet School has backed a qualification in performing arts.
Vauxhall, Honda and Volvo had all given their support to a diploma in light vehicle maintenance and repair principles.
The changes follow a review of vocational education by Professor Alison Wolf, who found that at least 350,000 16- to 19-year-olds were doing courses of little value.
She said: "High-quality and respected qualifications are at the heart of any excellent vocational education system. I am delighted that the government has taken this major step towards establishing such a system for England: one that will serve the needs of motivated and ambitious young people, of employers, and of the country as a whole."