Vocational qualifications

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At a glance

Guidance about vocational (or work-related) qualifications including NVQs and BTECs.

What are NVQs?

NVQ stands for National Vocational Qualification and offers practical, work-related tasks and goals. If your child knows what job they’d like to do, and wants to move straight in to the world of work, an NVQ could be the right choice for them. They can be taken alongside the National Curriculum at GCSE level but are usually taken after 16.

NVQs are available in more than 1,000 subjects, including childcare, plumbing, hairdressing, management, catering, construction and IT. NVQs can be based in a college or school, or a work environment – or a combination of the two.

NVQs are achieved through training and assessment, which is normally on-the-job observation. The skills level your child will be expected to reach is based on national standards for the occupation. Assessors sign off units when candidates are ready.

What are BTECs?

BTEC qualifications are work-related qualifications, which are broader than NVQs. They’re designed for young people interested in a particular sector or industry, but not sure what job they’d like to do. They’re usually taken after 16 although they can be taken at 14-16.

BTECs are available in a wide range of subjects including:

  • Art and design
  • Business
  • Health and social care
  • IT
  • Media
  • Public services
  • Science
  • Sport

BTECs have been designed with a lot of input from industry. They offer a mixture of theory and practice, and also include an element of work experience. They’re usually studied full-time in college, or sometimes jointly between a school and a college.

Where do they lead?

Both NVQs and BTECs are designed to lead to either a job or further study. Your child can also progress through different levels of ability to improve their grasp of the chosen subject.

High-level qualifications in BTECs and NVQs can lead to a professional qualification, and can also be a route into higher education, such as a Higher National Certificate or a Higher National Diploma.

Where can I find out more?

You can find out more about NVQs and BTECs at the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency website http://www.qcda.gov.uk/default.aspx

In this short video a trainee explains how she found her NVQ course, and what her work based learning course entails.

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