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Watch these videos to find out more about vocational education.
Working life is a journey. No matter how old you are, or where you are in your working life, where you want to get to depends on gaining the knowledge, skills and experience for a job. Once you’re in a job you continue to learn and train, which leads on to perhaps thinking about what you want to do next…
Where will your journey take you?
In England, your leaving age depends on when you were born. You can leave school on the last Friday in June as long as you’ll be 16 by the end of that year’s summer holidays.
You must stay in some form of education or training until your 18th birthday if you were born on or after 1 September 1997.
Your options are:
Vocational qualifications are areas of study that are set with the world of work in mind. They cover a range of industries and careers from sport and physical activity to business and finance, hospitality and catering to IT and graphic design.
Vocational qualifications might be referred to as awards, certificates or diplomas or sometimes NVQs or VRQs. You may have also heard of some of the qualification brand names like Cambridge Technicals or Nationals, BTECs or City and Guilds. Apprenticeships are programmes of learning that bring work and vocational qualifications together.
Vocational qualifications often focus on developing and demonstrating new skills and can involve practical study. Other vocational qualifications are about learning knowledge about the parts of a job or a combination or the two.
Vocational courses are based around the world of work and academic courses are based more on subject. So you may study geography as a GCSE or A Level but you couldn’t study it as a vocational subject as it’s not directly career related. Travel and tourism might be a good alternative though!
Some vocational qualifications are assessed through a portfolio of work that you build up to demonstrate what you can do. Others feature exams at the end of period of study, similar to GCSEs and A Levels.
It really depends on what the course is and what level you are studying, some certificates last less than a year and some apprenticeships can take up to three years before you would be fully qualified.
Some schools offer vocational certificates or diplomas, alongside traditional GCSE subjects. You can then consider studying a vocational course full or part-time after Year 11, this may be at your school, a local college, sixth form or in an apprenticeship. If you are already in employment you might find that your employer would be happy to help you boost your skills with an apprenticeship or other form of vocational training.
Yes from Entry Level all the way up to Level 8!
This depends on your age and what qualifications you have already. If you are at school, talk to a teacher or careers adviser about the options available and the levels you might start at. Otherwise you can find your nearest college and make an appointment to speak with an adviser.
You can always contact the National Careers Service to speak to a qualified adviser.
You should talk to the school about the course you want to study and see if they can make any recommendations or have a close alternative route. If there is not an option for you then you can talk to your local college, you could use UCAS Progress to search for courses. It may be that another school can offer you the course you want to study.
Yes, many people move on into Higher Education after studying vocational qualifications or a mixed programme. It is always a good idea to look at the university degree you want to study and at what university to see if they will accept the vocational qualifications as part of the entry criteria.
UCAS has the entry requirements for most degrees and universities so check to see if your vocational qualifications will count.
Yes you can. In some schools students can do a vocational certificate or diploma, combined with GCSEs or A Levels. Maths and English skills are important for work and life and many programmes will include these qualifications too. Colleges also offer the ability to mix vocational and academic learning.
This can be great for an employer who wants to employ someone with both practical and academic skills.
No. There are many routes into many careers, you could leave school at 16 and do an apprenticeship with a travel company, or you could study a vocational course such as travel and tourism and then apply for jobs or go to university and then get into the industry.
There are so many ways to begin a career, if you are not sure take a look at Plotr a careers website that helps you understand what options are available.
One thing you could do is contact a travel company and ask someone in their recruitment department what they would recommend.
No, some vocational subjects are really tough, it’s not an easy option. You will have to study and work hard to get good results. The higher the level you study the harder it will get.
Vocational qualifications can lead on to degrees and some degrees are very practical so don’t rule out either pathway, they are all just different ways of learning.
Yes, if you study a vocational qualification at level 2 or 3 in school or college you could then go on to do an apprenticeship.
That depends on the course and the place you are studying. Some schools and colleges will link a vocational qualification to work experience but not always. If you are doing an apprenticeship it will definitely have lots of work experience built in.
It’s OK not to know what you want to do for a career, many people leave education not knowing. It’s always a good idea to think about doing a less specific qualification so you can keep your options open, think business rather than catering or IT rather than web design, that way you will learn a broader range of skills that can be applied to many careers.
But even if you did do catering and then decided it wasn’t for you, that’s OK too. The experience and things you learn will help in other careers – you might learn about safety, attention to detail, and working under pressure when you study catering which are all great skills for lots of other careers.
Take a look at our Careers inspiration page to get some ideas on your career possibilities:
If you know what you want to do then there is possibly a qualification that will be of use, OCR has over 500 different qualifications! Play the Plotr game and see what career matches it comes up with for you and then explore the different ideas and research what qualifications will help.
Maybe it will help if you go through these career pages together, you can learn all about vocational qualifications and apprenticeships. The world has changed a lot since your parents had to choose their options so helping them to understand what’s available will be a great way to start. You can also book in to see a careers adviser together at school or college.