What is it?
Vocational qualifications are work-related qualifications. In England, they are regulated by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual).
There are many types of vocational qualification which include:
- City and Guilds
- OCR Nationals
They’re available in a wide range of subjects and across many industries.
In general, vocational qualifications would give your son or daughter the skills and knowledge they need to work in a specific job role. Vocational courses provide real work environments whilst at college for example, hairdressing salon or plumbing workshop or at higher levels, with real employers.
This is particularly the case if they choose to study for an occupational vocational qualification that complies to the National Occupational Standards for a particular job or sector such as healthcare or accounting.
Vocational qualifications have different levels, ranging from the entry level to level 8 which link to other qualification levels. For example:
- A full Level 2 vocational qualification is equivalent to 5 GCSEs grades A*-C.
- A full Level 3 vocational qualification is equivalent to 2 A Levels or 4 AS Levels.
Where can you study for one?
Your son or daughter can choose to study for a vocational qualification at school or as a full or part time course at college or with a training provider.
Who can study for them?
- If your son or daughter is still at school, they can study for a vocational qualification at ages 14 and 16.
- If they are over 16 years old, they can apply to study a vocational qualification at a local college.
To start an entry level vocational qualification, they do not need to have previous qualifications, but they will need to meet entry requirements for the more advanced level qualifications.
How long do they take?
Some of the shorter specialist courses can be completed in 3-4 months, whereas the larger qualifications can take up to two years to complete.
Are there any costs?
There are no fees if you are under 18 years old and are studying full time at school or college.
You might need to consider travel costs if your son or daughter chooses to attend a local college which is likely to be further from home than their school. Staffordshire County Council runs a young persons travel card to help with the cost of this.
Where to next?
Vocational qualifications can open a number of opportunities. Your son or daughter might choose to continue through the levels of qualification in their chosen area of study and this could lead to a professional qualification.
Alternatively, because some vocational qualifications i.e. BTEC carry UCAS tariff points, qualifications of Level 3 or above can be a route into higher education and university.