Technical qualifications

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Technical qualifications are set to gain greater prominence over the coming years. They are designed to develop specific technical skills needed in the current and future workplace, such as knowledge of software and computer processes or engineering drawing. The two main technical qualifications on offer to students are either the Technical Baccalaureate or T levels.

Technical Baccalaureate

The Technical Baccalaureate was introduced in 2014. It provides students with a technical qualification alongside the development of ‘soft skills’ highly valued by employers such as the ability to fit into a workplace, team-working skills, the ability to communicate effectively, and to be able to take constructive criticism. It is ideal for students who are interested in occupations that require significant theory and technical knowledge and application, for example computer programming.

There are two awarding bodies for a technical baccalaureate – City & Guilds and Pearson – both of which are slightly different to each other.

City & Guilds Technical Baccalaureate (TechBacc)

There are three elements to a City and Guilds Techbac:

  • A technical qualification – for example a Level 2 Certificate in Make-up Artistry
  • Workplace skills – there are 24 workplace skills available (for example, communication and professionalism) which are delivered online
  • Work experience

The City and Guilds TechBac is currently aligned to six important industries:

  • Engineering
  • Construction
  • Early years
  • Land
  • Digital
  • Automotive

Pearson’s Technical Baccalaureate (TechBacc)

A Level 3 TechBacc is made up of four elements:

  • A vocational qualification such as a BTEC National
  • A Level 3 mathematics qualification such as A level maths or a Core Maths Certificate or a Mathematics in Context certificate
  • An extended project
  • Work experience

An extended project is not exclusive to the TechBacc, as many A level students also complete an extended project as part of their studies. The extended project qualification, or EPQ as it is widely known, gives students the opportunity to develop their independent study and research skills. It is excellent preparation for university study as it requires students to carry out an extended piece of research and write a dissertation or long essay based on the results of their research. The research area is the choice of the student but can be related to their current study, a chosen career or even a hobby or pastime. A really good EPQ can make the difference between two candidates for a university course or at a job interview because it enables the student to demonstrate the essential study and work skills they have developed whilst completing it.


Subject areas

The subject areas in which a Pearson’s TechBacc is possible are wide-ranging. They aren’t always marketed by institutions as a TechBacc but basically, a course offering the combination of qualifications listed above is to all intents and purposes a TechBacc.

This qualification is available in:

  • Aeronautical engineering
  • Agriculture
  • Aircraft maintenance
  • Animal management
  • Art and design
  • Aviation operations
  • Blacksmithing and metalwork
  • Building services engineering for technicians
  • Bus and coach engineering and maintenance
  • Construction and the built environment
  • Countryside management
  • Creative media
  • Early years educator
  • Electrical engineering
  • Engineering
  • Fish management
  • Floristry
  • Food and beverage service supervision
  • Forestry and arboriculture
  • Horse management
  • Horticulture
  • Hospitality and catering
  • IT
  • Land-based technology
  • Legal services
  • Light vehicle maintenance and repair
  • Manufacturing engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Music technology
  • Operations and maintenance engineering
  • Production arts
  • Travel and tourism
  • Vehicle technology

An example …

It is possible to study for a Pearson’s TechBacc in Fish Management. This qualification consists of:

  • A BTEC Level 3 diploma or extended diploma or subsidiary diploma (see the section on vocational qualifications) in Fish Management
  • A level maths or Level 3 Certificate in Mathematics in Context
  • A Level 3 Extended Project Qualification
  • Work experience within the fisheries industry

This course is obviously aimed at those students who wish to train for a career in fishery management. It covers essential knowledge such as fish biology and behaviour, fish health and welfare, understanding water quality, aquatic plant biology and husbandry. It further develops numeracy skills, either academically through the A level or more practically through the Mathematics in Context Certificate. Finally, the course enables students to develop their research and independent study skills through the extended project qualification. In this case, perhaps the student could research the life cycle of a fish or the effects of pollution on river life. Ultimately, a TechBacc in fish management enables the student to prove to prospective employers that he or she has the knowledge, skills and interest needed for a career in that industry.

T levels

T levels are a new technical alternative to A levels being introduced from September 2020. Lasting two years, they have been created in collaboration with employers to meet the needs of industry and prepare students for work, further study or a higher apprenticeship (see section on apprenticeships). A completed Level 3 T level will be the equivalent of three A levels.

There will be a wide range of different pathways ranging from accountancy to education, and human resources to construction (see table). These pathways have been developed with the future employability needs of British industry in mind.

The new T level qualification will be phased in over three years, with only 54 institutions offering it in 2020. By 2023 it is expected that the T level will be widely available with an increasing number of pathways.

It is very likely that the T level will become a flag-ship qualification and a core component of the government’s education policy over the new few years.

Studying for a T level

A T level will consist of:

  • A technical qualification covering core theory, concepts and skills for a specific industry.
  • The teaching of specialist skills and knowledge for a career in that industry.
  • An industry placement with an employer – students will spend 80% of their time in the classroom (as opposed to 20% on an apprenticeship) and 20% on an industry placement of at least 45 days.
  • Study towards a grade 4 in GCSE Maths and/or English if students have not already achieved them.

Awarding bodies, education institutions and industry bodies are currently designing each T level course and each is likely to undergo a certain amount of tweaking before the final version is set.

A parent’s checklist

Does your son or daughter have the ability and interest to study for a Level 3 qualification in maths? Completion of a TechBacc requires the study of either A level maths or another Level 3 maths certificate

Does your son or daughter have the commitment to carry out an extended piece of research lasting approximately a year? Completion of a TechBacc requires the study for an extended project qualification

Does your son or daughter’s chosen career have specific, detailed skill requirements? Both a TechBacc and a T level are designed to develop precise industry-related skills

Is work experience important to your son or daughter? A T level consists of 20% of time spent on work placement so this should be considered carefully

Is your son or daughter likely to achieve a grade 4 at GCSE English and/or maths? It is possible to continue to work towards this grade on a T level programme whilst a TechBacc will require prior achievement of that grade

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