Thousands of courses to be scrapped in vocational shake-up
Some 20,000 vocational courses are to be scrapped and replaced with 15 new qualifications for teenagers in England under new government plans.
Sixteen-year-olds will have to choose between academic and technical options, according to the Post-16 Skills Plan.
The technical courses will be aimed at a set of skilled occupations and include a common core of English, maths and digital skills.
The government says the plans will help to harness the nation's talent.
The plan follows Lord Sainsbury's Report of the Independent Panel on Technical Education, which recommended simplifying the current system of technical education is provided through "15 high-quality routes", with standards being set by employers.
The report found the current "over-complex" system which "fails to provide the skills most needed for the 21st-Century" and highlights that this has serious consequences for the country's productivity, economy, and competitiveness.
Publishing the plan, Skills Minister Nick Boles said a technical education system was needed to harness the nation's talent.
"The Skills Plan is the next step towards that goal, building on the progress we have already made by investing in apprenticeships and creating a skilled workforce that is the envy of every other nation.
"This won't just help our young people get the best jobs but it will also boost our economy, benefitting us all."
The government said thousands of ineffective courses that short-changed employers and young people would be replaced with "straightforward routes into technical employment".
These are to be drawn up by employer panels.
Lord Sainsbury said currently, young people considering a technical education had to choose from more than 20,000 courses provided by 160 different organisations.
The government says there is no clear indication which course will give them the best chance of landing a job.
For example, a budding engineer can choose from a possible 501 courses, it says.
Each course will be offered by a single course provider, which will be awarded an exclusive licence in a competitive process.
And each will take place either at a college and include a work placement or through apprenticeships. The first routes will be made available from 2019.
The Association of School and College Leaders said it was essential that the government backed up its plan with more funding for colleges.
"The amount of funding they currently receive is woefully inadequate and this situation needs to be urgently addressed".
Gordon Marsden, shadow skills minister, said streamlining young people into a limited number of high-quality routes made sense, but there must be some opportunities to change and facilitate for fast moving developments, particularly in digital and technical skills.
But he added that to expect colleges to be ready to run the new courses from 2019 was "wildly optimistic".
Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary Mary Bousted said: "Forcing young people to choose the route to their future career at the age of 16 would institutionalise the divide between vocational and academic learning."
The proposals are reminiscent of Labour's 14-19 Diplomas. which aimed to create a parity between academic and vocational routes.
These qualifications were launched in 2008 in 14 subject areas, but scrapped within a few years by the coalition government.