Brexit Disclaimer
This website as well as the publications and online tools accessible via this website may contain UK data and analysis based on research conducted before the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union on 31 January 2020. EU averages or other statistical parameters including the UK reflect the situation in the European Union before 31 January 2020 and should not be considered as representative of the situation in the EU thereafter. Any data or information pertaining to the UK will be gradually phased out from Cedefop’s website, publications and online tools, as ongoing research projects with the United Kingdom’s participation are concluded. Data coming from UK were collected, processed and published before its withdrawal from the EU. Therefore, EU averages contain UK related data up to 2019.

General themes

VET in the UK:

  • skills development is a major priority of all four countries ([1]See: Strategic development of VET under Section
    12. Shaping VET qualifications - design
    );
  • there is an increased demand for apprenticeships and skills-for-work;
  • across the UK there is a high participation rate (66%)([2]66% of UK workplaces that responded to the UK
    Employer Skills Survey 2017 had arranged on-the-job or off-the-job training for employees in the preceding 12 months, with on-the-job training slightly more popular. Adult and continuing education is part of the formal education system, but is also offered as non-formal training by employers and training providers.
    ) in adult and continuing education;
  • early leaving from education and training has decreased in the last decade and is slightly above the national target set at 10% ([3]Drop-outs under 15 years old are redirected to VET earlier that other school-age learners.).

Distinctive features: ([4]Cedefop ((2017). Spotlight on vocational education and training in the United Kingdom. Luxembourg: Publications Office.
http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/8111_en.pdf
)

The UK government has devolved decision-making powers in several areas of policy responsibility, including governance of VET, to the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. While there are similarities between the systems in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, reforms are creating greater divergence and the Scottish system has always been different in many ways from those of the rest of the UK.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have different governance, regulation and quality assurance bodies. There is a complex institutional framework in the UK VET sector, with the policymaking authority for VET in England being the Department for Education, while the Department of Education and the Department for the Economy are responsible in Northern Ireland, and the Scottish and Welsh governments in Scotland and Wales respectively. The qualifications market in the UK is jointly driven by government policies and private interests. This has led to a large choice of qualifications and awarding organisations.

Matching qualifications with employer needs and increasing employer engagement with education and training are high priorities in the UK. The government’s July 2016 Post-16 skills plan proposes to simplify college-based VET in England by creating clear routes to occupations through qualifications developed with input from employers by 2019. The Regulated Qualifications Framework introduced in 2015 gives awarding organisations increased freedom and flexibility to develop qualifications that meet specific labour market needs. Qualifications are now expected to be validated and supported directly by employers rather than follow prescriptive rules and structures imposed by government agencies.

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework retains its credit and unit-based structure. Colleges in Scotland align their provision to the needs of employers and the Scottish economy through outcome agreements and a broad range of qualifications through their new regional governance structure. The Scottish Funding Council works with colleges to ensure outcome agreements address priority needs within their regions and contribute to improving young people’s life chances. The Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce also encourages colleges to develop more productive partnerships with local employers, schools and authorities.

The Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales continues to add clarity on the qualifications system and recognises all forms of learning across all levels and abilities. Vocational qualifications have also been classified as either IVET or CVET to clarify their purpose and whether they are introductory or lead to occupational competence. In 2015, Qualifications Wales was established as an independent agency tasked with ensuring that the Welsh qualifications system and qualifications meet the needs of learners, and promoting public confidence in the qualification system. The 2016 framework for post-compulsory education in Wales proposes to develop stronger links between education policy, providers and provision, and social and economic goals to ensure the future needs of Wales are met.

Youth training, further education, and apprenticeship reforms in Northern Ireland aim to raise skill levels of young people and will provide clear pathways from introductory VET to apprenticeships – which will start at upper secondary technician level – and higher education. Employers will be connected to education and training providers through a strategic advisory forum and sectoral partnerships to ensure curriculum design and training structure meet their needs. Further, the entitlement framework now encourages collaboration between post-14 school provision and vocational further education college provision. Centres of specialism and expertise will be set up in colleges that will develop networks of experts who will share the latest developments in curriculum and skills training.

Data from Spotlight on VET United Kingdom 2016/17 ([5]Cedefop ((2017). Spotlight on vocational education and training in the United Kingdom. Luxembourg: Publications Office.
http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/8111_en.pdf
).

Population in 2018: 66 273 576 ([6]NB: Data for population as of 1 January. Eurostat table tps00001 [extracted 16.5.2019].).

Population increased since 2013 by 3.7% due to natural growth and migration ([7]NB: Data for population as of 1 January. Eurostat table tps00001 [extracted 16.5.2019].).

The UK old age dependency ratio is showing a trend towards an aging population, with more people reaching pension age. It is expected to increase from 28 in 2015 to 43 in 2060 ([8]Old-age-dependency ratio is defined as the ratio between the number of persons aged 65 and more over the number of working-age persons (15-64). The value is expressed per 100 persons of working age (15-64).).

 

Source: Eurostat, proj_15ndbims [extracted 16.5.2019].

 

Demographic changes have an impact on VET.

The amount of job roles requiring intermediate and higher skills and education is rising in the UK and it is expected that it will become even more important to possess specialist skills and higher education in the coming years, in order to qualify for a more technologically advanced labour market.

The demographic trend towards an ageing population raises challenges for VET. There may need to be a renewed focus on adult education and upskilling to keep up with the needs of the labour market. ‘As working lives are getting longer and the pace of technological change is increasing, the number of significant changes an individual will have to adapt to during their working life will increase.’([9]Government Office for Science (2015). Future of education in an ageing population. Presentation for the Expert meeting, York, 13 July 2016.
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/555576/future-of-ageing-education-expert-meeting-york.pdf [accessed 13.6.19].
)

Furthermore, efforts to curb immigration may result in a need to supply a greater number of intermediate skilled workers from the native labour force. The UK has relied on EEA skilled labour and curbs on immigration will impact on the skills profile of the workforce. ([10]Savour, B.; Keohane, N. (2019). Leading skills, exploring leadership in further education colleges: paper 1. London: SMF, p.14
http://www.smf.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Leading-skills-Exploring-leadership-in-Further-Education-colleges-Paper-1.pdf
)

 

Information not available

The UK has a market-based economy and is a major international trading power. Financial services as well as pharmaceutical, petroleum, automotive, aerospace, telecommunications and other technological industries play an important role in the UK’s economy, with the services industry being the largest contributor.

The UK labour market is demand-led and amongst the least regulated in the world. Skill shortages exist in various sectors.

The top five occupations experiencing shortages are currently finance, medicine associate professionals, nursing and midwifery, other health professionals and ICT ([11]Skills Panorama (2018).
Mismatch priority occupations in the United Kingdom. Cedefop analytical highlights.
https://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/en/analytical_highlights/united-kingdom-mismatch-priority-occupations [accessed 3.8.2018].
).

The UK Government lists shortage occupations for work permit purposes and currently includes various engineering and technician jobs, medicine, health, science, teaching (secondary level), IT/computing, chefs and arts amongst other professions ([12]Home Office (2018
). UK Immigration rules - Appendix K: shortage occupation list from 6 July 2018 [accessed 3.8.2018]. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix...
).

UK NARIC ([13]UK NARIC is the National Agency responsible for providing information, advice and opinion on academic, vocational and professional qualifications and skills from all over the world:
https://www.naric.org.uk/naric/
) works with the UK immigration authority by providing recognition of formal qualifications from abroad to the most appropriate level within the UK education system.

 

Employment in the UK by industry

Source: Office for National Statistics (2018: employment by industry [accessed 6.7.2018].

 

Total unemployment ([14]Percentage of active population, 25 to 74 years old.) (2018): 3% (6% in EU28); it decreased by 0.9 percentage points since 2008 ([15]Eurostat table une_rt_a [extracted 20.5.2019].).

 

Unemployment rate (aged 15-24 and 25-64) by education attainment level in 2008-18

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education. ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education. ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_urgaed [extracted 16.5.2019].

 

People with low qualifications experience higher unemployment rates compared to those with middle or higher level qualifications. Unemployment increased during the economic crisis (especially among young people aged 15-24 with low qualifications), but has regained the pre-crisis levels. Moreover, in 2018 unemployment rates are lower than in 2008 in all age groups.

Employment rate of 20 to 34-year-old VET graduates increased from 78.0 % in 2014 to 80.5% in 2018 ([16]Eurostat table edat_lfse_24 [extracted 16.5.2019].).

 

Employment rate of VET graduates (20 to 34 years old, ISCED levels 3 and 4)

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_24 [extracted 16.5.2019].

 

The increase (+2.5 pp) in employment of 20-34 year-old VET graduates in 2014-18 was lower compared to the increase of all 20-34 year-old graduates (+3.2pp) in the same period in the United Kingdom ([17]NB: Break in time series. Eurostat table edat_lfse_24 [extracted 16.5.2019].).

See Cedefop (2018). The changing nature and role of vocational education and training in Europe. Volume 3: the responsiveness of European VET systems to external change (1995-2015). Case study focusing in England. [17a]Cedefop (2018). The changing nature and role of vocational education and training in Europe. Volume 3: the responsiveness of European VET systems to external change (1995-2015). Case study focusing in England. Cedefop research paper; No 67. https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/england_cedefop_changing_nature_of_vet_-_case_study.pdf

In 2018, the share of population aged up to 64 with higher education in the UK was the sixth highest in the EU28+(43.1%) and well above the EU average (32.2%)in the same group. The share of those with low level qualifications (19.6%) is below the EU average (21.8%) while middle-level qualifications is rather low (37.1%) compared to the EU average (45.7%) and the seventh lowest in the EU, following Spain, Portugal, Malta, Luxembourg, Iceland and Ireland.

 

Population (aged 25 to 64) by highest education level attained in 2018

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; low reliability for ‘no response’ in Czech Republic, Iceland, Latvia and Poland.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_pgaed [extracted 16.5.2019].

See Cedefop (2019). The changing nature and role of vocational education and training in Europe. Volume 6: vocationally oriented education and training at higher education level. Expansion and diversification in European countries. Case study focusing on United Kingdom. Cedefop research paper; No 70. https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_england_cedefop_chang...

 

Share of learners in VET by level in 2017

lower secondary

upper secondary

post-secondary

17.5%

46.6%

Not applicable

Source: Eurostat, educ_uoe_enrs01, educ_uoe_enrs04 and educ_uoe_enrs07 [extracted 16.5.2019].

The share of learners in VET increased since 2013, by 5.7% and 2.9% respectively in lower and upper secondary education.

The share of upper-secondary VET learners compared to the total number of learners in upper secondary education increased from 43.8% in 2013 to 46.6% in 2017 (+2.9 pp) in the UK. UK was among the eleven EU28+ countries that had a positive change in the VET population while nineteen countries had seen a decrease in the share of upper-secondary VET population in the same period ([18]Data not available for the Netherlands.).

 

Share of initial VET learners from total learners at upper-secondary level (ISCED level 3), 2017

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011.
Source: Eurostat, educ_uoe_enrs04 [extracted 16.5.2019].

 

Information not available

The share of early leavers from education and training has dropped by 5 percentage points from 15.7% in 2009 to 10.7% in 2018, close to the national target set for 2020 (10%) and close to the EU average share (10.6%) in 2018.

 

Early leavers from education and training in 2009-18

NB: Share of the population aged 18 to 24 with at most lower secondary education and not in further education or training; break in series.
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_14 [extracted 16.5.2019] and European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/info/2018-european-semester-national-reform-programmes-and-stability-convergence-programmes_en [accessed 14.11.2018].

 

Education or training is compulsory up to age 16 (18 in England). Most VET programmes can be accessed from age 15/16, although learners can be introduced to VET earlier after dropping out of compulsory schooling ([19]In 2019, national achievement (completion) rates in the 19+ education and training and in apprenticeships were 88.3% and 67.3% respectively:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/789589/201718_NARTs_MainText.pdf
).

More information on early leaving from education and training is available in the Cedefop report 2017: United Kingdom - Leaving education early: putting vocational education and training centre stage ([20]http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_-_leaving_education_early.pdf)

Lifelong learning offers training opportunities for adults, including early leavers from education.

 

Participation in lifelong learning in 2014-18

NB: Share of adult population aged 25 to 64 participating in education and training.
Source: Eurostat, trng_lfse_01 [extracted 16.5.2019].

 

Participation in lifelong learning decreased (-1.7 percentage points) from 16.3% in 2014 to 14.6% in 2018, at 3.5 percentage points above the EU-28 average (11.1%) in 2018.

In England, 2.2 million people registered with further education (FE) colleges in 2017/18, 1.4 million of those VET learners (63.3%) were adults ([21]Association of Colleges (2017). College key facts 2017/18. https://www.aoc.co.uk/sites/default/files/Key Facts 2017-18_1.pdf).

Adult and continuing education is part of the formal education system, but is also offered as non-formal training by employers and training providers.

 

Participation of 16-18 year olds in education and training in England in 2017 (%)

Source: Department for Education (2018). Participation in education, training and employment: 2017 [accessed 15.11.2018].

 

 

Participation of 16-19 year olds in education and training in Scotland in 2018 (%)

Source: Skills Development Scotland (2018). Annual Participation Measure for 16 – 19 year olds in Scotland 2018 [accessed 15.11.2018].

 

The education and training system comprises:

  • preschool education (ISCED level 0);
  • primary education (ISCED level 1);
  • lower secondary education (ISCED levels 2 and 3)
  • upper secondary education (ISCED 4);
  • higher/tertiary education (ISCED levels 5, 6, 7 and 8).

Pre-school education is provided in nurseries and children centres (years 0-5) (years 0-4 in N. Ireland).

Primary education is offered in schools:

  • from age 4 for 7 years in N. Ireland; or
  • from age 5 for 6 years in England and Wales; and
  • from age 5 for 7 years in Scotland.

Secondary school starts after completion of primary schooling. Lower secondary programmes last:

  • three years (grades 7-9) (Key Stage 3) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; or
  • two years (grades 8-9) (National 1-4/Intermediate 1) in Scotland.

Upper secondary programmes (grades 10 and 11) are available to learners over 14. (Key Stage 4 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 5/ Intermediate 2 in Scotland).

[….]

Education or training is compulsory from the age of 5 (4 in N. Ireland) up to age 16 (18 in England).

There is a range of education and training providers within the UK VET sector. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, providers include lower secondary schools, school sixth forms, sixth form colleges ([22]Sixth form programmes are offered in years 12 and 13 in secondary general of vocational (college-based) programmes to often acquire an A level (EQF 4), but also vocational qualifications at the same level:
https://www.aoc.co.uk/sixth-form-colleges
), further education (FE) colleges ([23]See
https://www.gov.uk/further-education-courses. Further education colleges are accessible to both young people below 18 and adults; programmes include general academic study, key competences, general vocational programmes, study that may be focused on a specific sector as well as off-the-job apprenticeship training.
) and higher education institutions (HEIs) in addition to private training organisations and work-based learning providers ([24]See also Section VET governance/education providers for a full list of all education providers in the UK and the devolved administrations.).

Most VET programmes can be accessed from age 15/16, although learners can be introduced to VET earlier after dropping out of compulsory schooling or combining vocational subjects with general secondary study. Vocational education and training (VET) is available at secondary and higher education levels in the UK; (EQF levels 2 to 7).

Vocational education and training (VET) is available at secondary and higher education levels in the UK; (EQF levels 2 to 7). Most VET qualifications are taken at EQF level 3 and EQF 4 ([25]See also:
https://www.gov.uk/further-education-courses
) in the further education (FE) sector ([26]FE programmes are accessible to learners over 16 (end of compulsory schooling); a great number of adult learners follow such programmes.).

VET qualifications exist in a wide variety of sectors and prepare learners for work and further study. Programme duration varies by subject area, level of study and type of learning and is between one and four years.

School-based VET is provided in schools and colleges and includes:

  • predominantly school-based programmes that combine general academic study with VET elements;
  • broad VET programmes ([27]Broad vocational programmes cover a field of employment rather than an occupation. For example, students can take BTEC national qualifications in areas such as sport or performing arts.);
  • specialist occupational programmes;
  • work-based learning (technical and occupational learning) may take place both in a VET provider setting and a workplace, in the following forms:
    • (school) workshops;
    • in-company training for VET learners;
    • on-the-job apprenticeship training.

Learning options in formal (school-based) VET:

  • full-time;
  • part-time (evening classes;
  • distance learning;
  • in-company training on a block- or day-release basis;
  • combined with an apprenticeship, where technical and occupational learning takes place:
    • on the job,
    • of the job.

Apprentices are employed and are taught core, transferable skills. A national qualification is awarded upon completion ([28]See Section: Apprenticeships.).

Adult and continuing education is part of the formal education system, but is also offered as non-formal training by employers and training providers:

  • in formal VET, the same learning options apply for adults as for minor learners:
    • full-time;
    • part-time;
    • dual (apprenticeship) learning;
  •  
    • distance learning;
  • non-formal training is delivered:
    • on-the job;
    • off-the job.

Main vocational qualifications offered in the UK ([29]See also table UK national qualifications frameworks in relation to the EQF in Section
8. VET governance; and the
European inventory of NQF 2018
)

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales:

  • GCSEs: General Certificate of Secondary Education (RQF/CQFW levels 1 and 2 corresponding to EQF levels 2 and 3 respectively). GCSEs in vocational subjects are available in all three countries;
  • BTEC: Business and Technology Education Council qualifications RQF level 2 are offered in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (see also; Pearson What is a BTEC?)
    • BTEC Awards;
    • BTEC National Awards;
    • BTEC First Awards. (Pearson. About BTEC Firsts);
    • BTEC certificates;
    • BTEC Diplomas.
  • NVQ: National Vocational Qualifications are competence-based, practically oriented qualifications that are based on National Occupational Standards and often assessed in the work place. NVQs sit within the RQF (Regulated qualifications framework in England and N. Ireland in place since 2015) and CQFW (Credit and qualifications framework of Wales).

In Scotland:

  • SVQ: Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are competence-based, practically oriented qualifications that are based on National Occupational Standards and often assessed in the work place. SVQs sit within the SCQF(Scottish credit and qualifications framework).
  • National Certificates are offered in both vocational and academic subjects mostly in full-time education
  • NPAs: National Progression Awards are usually short, more flexible programmes for employees or people returning to work, though are also taken as part of a wider curriculum of qualifications within the school or college setting

[National Certificates and National Progression Awards are National Qualifications Group Awards in which students accumulate credits towards distinctive group awards (EQF level 3 programmes). They allow entry to more advanced study and employment.]

  • Professional Development Awards
  • HNCs: Higher National Certificate
  • HNDs: Higher National Diploma

Recent developments ([30]See also Section: VET governance/apprenticeships.)

Apprenticeships in the UK are offered as basic training at secondary level to advanced education and training at higher education level. The table below shows at which levels training is available.

 

NQFs and apprenticeship levels in relation to the EQF

NB: EQF: European qualifications framework.
CQFW: Credit and qualifications framework of Wales.
NQF: National qualifications framework.
RQF: Regulated qualifications framework in England and N. Ireland.
SCQF: Scottish credit and qualifications framework.
Source: ReferNet UK, 2018.

 

Apart from the new apprenticeship standards in England ([31]In England most apprenticeship frameworks are in the process of being replaced by new apprenticeship standards developed by groups of employers from 2015/16. The new standards are currently run in parallel with the frameworks and comprise on-the-job and off-the-job training and learning, linked to specific occupations, and apprentices are assessed by an independent assessor from industry or a separate training provider to the one the student attended at the end of the training.) it is the qualifications within the apprenticeship frameworks that are benchmarked to the NQFs ([32]National qualifications frameworks.), not the frameworks as a whole.

All UK apprentices are employed and off-the-job training is available from colleges and independent training providers and training organisations with which colleges subcontract. Independent training providers must be registered with the Register of Training Organisations to be eligible to deliver education and training services under the adult education budget in England.

-------------

Learn more about apprenticeships in the national context from the European database on apprenticeship schemes by Cedefop: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/data-visualisations/apprenticeship-schemes/scheme-fiches

Governance of VET in the UK rests with the UK Government and Government departments in the Devolved Administrations ([33]The UK Government has devolved decision-making powers in a number of areas of policy responsibility to the Devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, such as governance for all levels and types of education, including VET. Whilst there are similarities between the systems in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, reforms are creating greater divergence and the Scottish system has always been significantly different in many ways to those of the rest of the UK.). Devolved Government legislation does not include detailed regulations, such as lists of approved qualifications, but the law provides for the respective

Government Ministers to issue the lists following advice from the relevant advisory body.

VET regulators and inspection/accreditation agencies in formal VET

Different inspection and review bodies exist in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; they are list in the table below:

England

Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) - school, further education and non-degree higher education qualifications

Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) – schools and further education colleges

Scotland

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) - school, further education and higher education qualifications not awarded by HEIs

Education Scotland - schools and further education colleges

Wales

Qualifications Wales - school, further education and non-degree higher education qualifications

Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales (Estyn) - schools and further education colleges

Northern Ireland

Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) - school, further education and non-degree higher education qualifications

Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) – schools, further education colleges and other providers delivering publicly-funded training programmes

Source: ReferNet UK.

In England, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) holds responsibility for inspection of schools and further education colleges. Ofsted considers the overall effectiveness of the outcomes for learners, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, in addition to the effectiveness of leadership and management. Schools and colleges are inspected by Education Scotland in Scotland, Estyn in Wales and the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) in Northern Ireland. Education Scotland evaluates the outcomes and impact of education provision, the service delivery, as well as the vision and leadership of providers. Estyn reports on the quality of education and training provided, the standards achieved by students, and whether colleges provide value for money. ETI Northern Ireland focuses on the learners’ achievements, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, and the quality and effectiveness of the leadership and management of the curriculum.

Higher education provided at UK further education (FE) colleges is subject to quality review by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and QAA Scotland through their Higher Education Review that involves peer review, student involvement, as well as analysis of core and thematic elements.

In Scotland, HE in the form of HNCs ([34]Higher national certificate.) and HNDs ([35]Higher national diploma.) in tertiary colleges is subject to inspection and review by Education Scotland, not QAA Scotland. However, for those colleges which are constituent parts of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) or Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), their HNC and HND provision is subject to inspection and review by Education Scotland and review by QAA Scotland.

The Integrated Quality Enhancement Review methodology in Northern Ireland includes peer review, developmental engagement and summative review.

The Hazelkorn report ([36]Welsh Government (2016).
A framework for building a world-class post-compulsory education system for Wales [accessed 15.11.2018].
) recommends creating a new single body for regulation, oversight and co-ordination for the entire post-compulsory education and training sector in Wales. The Welsh Government White Paper Public Good and a Prosperous Wales – Building a reformed PCET system ([37]Welsh Government (2017).
Public good and a prosperous Wales: building a reformed PCET system [accessed 15.11.2018].
) set out how the new body, referred to as the Tertiary Education and Research Commission, would manage allocating resources, assuring and assessing quality, monitoring and managing performance and risk, regulation of the system and accreditation of institutions as well as strategic planning, co-ordinating, steering and providing advice of policy including a responsibility for research and innovation which all is envisaged to form a more coherent and integrated post-compulsory system.

National qualifications frameworks

Formal VET in the UK is organised within several national qualifications frameworks. The Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) was introduced in England and Northern Ireland in 2015 and encompasses academic and vocational qualifications. The RQF gives awarding organisations increased freedom and flexibility to develop qualifications that meet specific labour market needs. Qualifications are now expected to be validated and supported directly by employers to ensure qualifications measure the knowledge and skills necessary for industry, rather than follow prescriptive rules and structures imposed by government agencies. Level descriptors have been revised, but the same eight framework levels (plus entry levels, see table below) remain from the previous Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), and the existing qualifications continue to be offered until they are withdrawn by the awarding organisation.

The Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW) also has the same levels as the QCF/RQF. The CQFW is a meta framework which comprises three pillars. These are regulated qualifications, higher education qualifications and lifelong learning qualifications, which include workplace continuing professional development and bespoke business training, as well as non-formal learning, recognition of prior learning (RPL), and assigned accreditation for learning.

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) comprises 12 levels and includes formal, and an increasing volume of non-formal qualifications.

The CQFW, SCQF and the previous QCF describe levels, qualifications and units in terms of learning outcomes as well as credits and notional learning hours. RQF qualifications have, from 31 December 2017, been described in terms of total qualification time ([38]Ofqual (2015).
Total qualification time criteria [accessed 22.2.2017].
) as credit allocation to units and qualifications is not compulsory within the RQF. National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are competence-based, practically oriented qualifications that are based on National Occupational Standards and often assessed in the work place. While NVQs sit within the RQF and CQFW, SVQs sit within the SCQF.

The UK qualifications frameworks correspond to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) as described in the table below.

UK national qualifications frameworks in relation to the EQF

EQF

RQF

SCQF

CQFW

8

8

12

8

7

7

11

7

6

6

10/9

6

5

5/4

8/7

5/4

4

3

6

3

3

2

5

2

2

1

4

1

1

Entry 3

3

Entry 3

 

Entry 2

2

Entry 2

 

Entry 1

1

Entry 1

Source: QAA (2014). Qualifications can cross boundaries: a guide to comparing qualifications in the UK and Ireland [accessed 4.6.2019].

There is not always an automatic right to progression from one level to the next within the frameworks as education providers retain the right to set the entry requirements to individual qualifications based on individual awarding organisations’ (see also ‘Shaping qualifications – design’) requirements. However, the unit-based structure of many qualifications opens up the possibilities for validation of prior learning and transfer of credit between qualifications (see section Validation of prior learning).

RQF levels are still to be referenced to EQF levels. An update on developments in England and Northern Ireland was presented in the EQF advisory group in February 2019, and an updated referencing report to reference the RQF and FHEQ to the EQF is planned to be presented in June 2019 ([39]Source: Cedefop (2019). European inventory on NQF 2018: UK - England and Northern Ireland, p. 16.
https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_england_and_northern_ireland_-_european_inventory_on_nqf_2018.pdf
); an updated referencing report has been prepared by the SCQF Partnership and presented to the EQF advisory group in December 2018 ([40]Source: Cedefop (2019). European inventory on NQF 2018: UK- Scotland, p.14.
https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_scotland_-_european_inventory_on_nqf_2018.pdf
); Wales is currently in the process of updating the referencing report due to the changes in the level descriptors, the creation of Qualification Wales and the changes to quality assurance in higher education. This report will be presented to the EQF advisory group in June 2019 ([41]Source: Cedefop (2019). European inventory on NQF 2018: UK- Wales, p.15.
https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_wales_-_european_inventory_on_nqf_2018.pdf
).

Apprenticeships in England ([42]See also section ‘ apprenticeships’)

The latest reform of apprenticeships in England is based on the Richard Review (2012). New apprenticeship standards are being developed by employer-led consortia (Trailblazer groups) ([43]See also: Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education: Trailblazer apprenticeship groups:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-develop-an-apprenticeship-standard-guide-for-trailblazers [accessed 26.8.2019].
) and the quality of the standards are being regulated by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education ([44]Changed name as of 31 January 2019:
https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/about/news-events/name-change-ushers-in-exciting-new-dawn-for-t-levels-preparations/
) (see section Quality assurance). New apprenticeships must include a work contract and at least 20% off-the-job training in addition to English and mathematics, but there is no longer a requirement to include an occupational qualification within the programme. Standards are linked to single professions and the unit-based structure of the previous apprenticeship frameworks has been replaced with holistic end-point assessment. The new apprenticeship standards are currently being phased in and run in parallel with the previous frameworks.

Policy making authorities

There is a complex institutional framework in the UK VET sector with the Department for Education (DfE) having policy-making responsibilities in England; the policy-making authorities for VET in Northern Ireland are the Department of Education (DE) and the Department for the Economy, in Wales the body is the Welsh Government’s Department for Education and Public Services and Department for Economy, Skills and Infrastructure, and, in Scotland, the Department of Learning and the Department of Lifelong Learning of the Scottish Government are responsible. The table below presents an overview of policy making authorities in the UK VET sector.

England

Department for Education (DfE) – all levels of education

Scotland

Scottish Government – all levels of education

Wales

Welsh Government – all levels of education

Northern Ireland

Department of Education (DE) – schools and teacher training

Department for the Economy – further education colleges and higher education

Source: ReferNet UK.

Education (and training) providers

There is a range of education and training providers within the UK VET sector. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, providers include lower secondary schools, school sixth forms, sixth form colleges ([45]Sixth form programmes are offered in years 12 and 13 in secondary general of vocational (college-based) programmes to often acquire an A level (EQF 4), but also vocational qualifications at the same level (
https://www.aoc.co.uk/sixth-form-colleges).
), further education (FE) colleges ([46]See
https://www.gov.uk/further-education-courses. Further education colleges are accessible to both young people below 18 and adults; programmes include general academic study, key competences, general vocational programmes, study that may be focused on a specific sector as well as off-the-job apprenticeship training.
) and higher education institutions (HEIs) in addition to private training organisations and work-based learning providers. An overview of education providers is presented in the table below.

England

Schools/academies – general academic and vocational secondary education

Further education colleges – secondary and tertiary VET

Independent training providers – secondary and tertiary VET

Higher education institutions – higher vocational education

Scotland

Schools – general academic and vocational secondary education

Tertiary colleges – secondary and tertiary VET

Private training providers – secondary and tertiary VET

Higher education institutions – higher vocational education

Wales

Schools – general academic and vocational secondary education

Further education institutions – secondary and tertiary VET

Colleges – secondary and tertiary VET

Higher education institutions – higher vocational education

Northern Ireland

Schools – general academic and vocational secondary education

Further education colleges – secondary and tertiary VET

Private, community and voluntary sector providers – secondary and post-secondary VET

Training organisations - – secondary and tertiary VET

Higher education institutions – higher vocational education

Source: ReferNet UK.

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, FE colleges represent the largest group of VET providers, offering education to learners that are predominantly 16 years old and upwards, including a large number of adult learners. FE colleges offer vocational learning at entry level (EQF 2) through to higher VET (EQF level 7). Students may attend FE colleges on a full-time or part-time basis and combine the study with an apprenticeship.

In Scotland, VET is mostly offered in colleges providing vocational secondary from EQF level 2 and higher education and by private training providers, but also in secondary schools (EQF 2 – 4) and higher education institutions (HEIs). The recent introduction of graduate apprenticeships ([47]Degree apprenticeships (in Scotland: Higher and Graduate apprenticeships) create a different pathway to obtaining university degrees. Whilst academic ability, including grades and numerical and reasoning skills are considered by the university or college, candidates are also interviewed for a job with a company (unless they are already employed with the company). Both employers and universities must be satisfied the applicant meets their respective requirements. There may therefore be a joint recruitment process.) means that VET is now increasingly being provided by HEIs in Scotland.

A large number of colleges exist in the UK, but many have in recent years merged to form larger regional units, a process that is still on-going in England.

University Technical Colleges (UTCs) (EQF 2-4) are VET institutions for 14-19 year olds in England. UTCs are formed through partnerships between universities, colleges and businesses to match national curriculum requirements to local needs and include work placements. UTCs combine core skills with early subject specialisation and links to higher education. Similarly, Studio Schools have been introduced in 2010([48]UK NARIC (2014).
Innovation in VET and the concept of Studio Schools A report prepared within Cedefop ReferNet network.
) for the same age range in England. These are small institutions offering vocational qualifications (at EQF levels 2-4), general qualifications (such as GCSEs) ([49]General Certificate of Secondary Education (RQF/CQFW levels 1 and 2 corresponding to EQF levels 2 and 3 respectively). See also:
http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_england_and_northern_ireland_-_european_inventory_on_nqf_2016.pdf
) as well as teaching through enterprise projects and work placements ([50]UK NARIC (2014).
Innovation in VET and the concept of Studio Schools A report prepared within Cedefop ReferNet network.
).

To meet labour market demand for higher technical skills, a network of Institutes of Technology is being created in England focussed on skills development at qualifications framework levels 3-5 (EQF 4-5). These institutes will be sponsored by employers, registered with professional bodies and aligned with apprenticeship standards, and be both empowered and expected to design clear routes to employment in cooperation with employers and professional organisations. Moreover, funding from the government and employers was confirmed for five National Colleges in 2016. These National Colleges will focus on delivering technical skills at levels 4 to 6 (EQF levels 5-6) in the areas of digital skills, high speed rail, nuclear, creative and cultural, and onshore oil and gas.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is an executive agency sponsored by the DfE in England. Aside from funding learners aged between 3 and 19 and adult further education and skills training, the ESFA supports the building and maintenance programmes for schools, academies ([51]See also
https://www.gov.uk/types-of-school/academies
), free schools ([52]See also
https://www.gov.uk/types-of-school/free-schools
) and sixth-form colleges. A simplified, learner-led funding system is in place since 2013/14. Much of school-based VET is Government funded, but employers fund an increasing part of workplace training, such as in-company training and learning through specialist consultants and agencies.

An apprenticeship levy was introduced in 2017 to create long-term, sustainable investment in apprenticeships ([53]The levy is paid across the whole UK and a proportion of funding is distributed to all four nations according to population; however, the portions allocated to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not need to be used exclusively to fund apprenticeships and can be allocated to other VET training needs.). The levy is paid by all large employers in the UK with a paybill of over £3m a year. Levy payers and non-levy paying employers are able to access funding to support their apprenticeship training. In England a growing number of education providers now receive funding directly from the Government rather than through local authorities. These are academies, free schools, university technical colleges and studio schools (see section Apprenticeships). Privately funded training providers also operate within the UK VET sector.

The Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council, commonly known as the Scottish Funding Council, is the strategic body for the funding of teaching, learning, research and other activities across all levels of tertiary education in Scotland. Public (VET) schools are funded through and accountable to local authorities, with one exception being directly funded by the Scottish Government. Skills Development Scotland funds Modern apprenticeship programmes and other government funded programmes of learning.

Funding of VET in the Northern Ireland further education sector and for providers of specific Government-funded programmes is the responsibility of the Department for the Economy.

VET funding in Wales is traditionally the responsibility of the Welsh Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (also sponsored by the Welsh Government). In January 2014 the Welsh Government published its Policy statement on skills which set out its long term vision for employment and skills policy in Wales. This work was supplemented by the development of the Framework for co-investment in skills, also introduced in 2014, which sets out the principles for government and employer investment in skills ([54]Welsh Government (2014).
Framework for co-investment in skills [accessed 15.11.2018].
). The framework aims to provide a foundation for shifting the emphasis from a government-led approach to skills investment to a system influenced and led by employers. The investment made by employers, supported by the co-investment framework, will place them in a stronger position to challenge the skills system in Wales.

Learning opportunities for vulnerable groups (targeted measures)

Formal VET targeted at vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, such as people with disabilities and learning difficulties are mostly offered in the same providers as other students; however, additional funding is available.

Lifelong Learning Partnerships (LLPs) consist of a variety of education providers ranging from voluntary sector providers to further and higher education institutions as well as employers and trade unions. LLPs often reach out to disadvantaged communities and assist disadvantaged learners to engage with education and training again.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) updated its Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland and the Equality Challenge Fund in 2017 ([55]SDS (2017).
Equalities action plan for modern apprenticeships in Scotland [accessed 19.2.2019].
) for projects aimed at widening access to Modern apprenticeships. Organisations including charities, colleges and training providers have received funding to help boost Modern apprenticeship numbers among under-represented groups such as individuals from minority ethnic backgrounds, disabled people and care leavers as well as tackling gender imbalance in certain sectors. The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) outcome agreements require colleges and universities to produce access and inclusion strategies that define their inclusive practices and the impact this has on learners. The SFC expects colleges to evidence how they use funds to support students with educational support needs, including disabled students, to ensure they have an equal chance of successfully completing their programme of study ([56]Scottish Government (2016).
A fairer Scotland for disabled people See also: Scottish Funding Council (2016).
Guidance for the development of College Outcome Agreements: 2017-18 to 2019-20 [accessed 15.11.2018].
).

Incentives for providers

VET providers across England continue to have the freedom and flexibility to determine how they use their adult education budget (AEB), working with Local Enterprise Partnerships and local commissioners to determine what the appropriate distribution of funding should be to best meet local needs. From 2019/20 academic year, approximately 50% of the AEB will be devolved to six Mayoral Combined Authorities and delegated to the Greater London Authority who will be responsible for commissioning and funding AEB provision for learners resident in their areas.

The Scottish Funding Council bases funding of VET providers on Outcome Agreements with colleges and universities. These Agreements include learner retention, articulation and progression into further and higher education and other positive destinations, such as employment. More emphasis within the Outcome Agreements is now being put on areas including widening access, gender, skills, innovation and apprenticeships.

In VET, categories of teachers and trainers are:

  • FE teaching staff ([57]Those teaching in FE colleges are usually referred to as lecturers (VET teachers) and those teaching work-based learning are normally called VET trainers.) in England are called teachers, trainers, lecturers, tutors, assessors, advisors and instructors;
  • teaching staff in the VET sector in Northern Ireland use the professional titles of lecturer, teacher, trainer, tutor and assessor;
  • teaching staff in the Scottish VET sector use the professional titles of teacher, lecturer, tutor, assessor and trainer;
  • VET teaching staff in Wales use the professional titles of lecturers, teachers, tutors, assessors and trainers.

Different training and registration requirements exist at secondary education level to further and higher education level across the UK:

In England VET teachers working in maintained secondary schools must meet the requirements of the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA), which includes a degree level qualification, GCSE ([58]General Certificate of Secondary Education (RQF/CQFW levels 1 and 2 corresponding to EQF levels 2 and 3 respectively); see also:
http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_england_and_northern_ireland_-_european_inventory_on_nqf_2016.pdf
) level subjects in English, mathematics and science in addition to obtaining Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and completing an induction year. The same statutory requirement to hold QTS is not in place for VET teachers employed by publicly-funded free schools and some academies.

In Wales, those training to teach in local authority funded secondary schools are required to gain QTS and complete an induction period by meeting professional standards set by the Welsh Government. There is also a requirement in Wales to complete an undergraduate or postgraduate programme of Initial Teacher Education, which includes assessment against the QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). In addition there are minimum requirements for GCSE attainment including a standard equivalent to a grade B in the GCSE examination in English and/or Welsh and in mathematics.

Those teaching in FE colleges ([59]See
https://www.gov.uk/further-education-courses. Further education colleges are accessible to both young people below 18 and adults; programmes include general academic study, key competences, general vocational programmes, study that may be focused on a specific sector as well as off-the-job apprenticeship training.
) in the UK are usually referred to as lecturers (VET teachers) and those teaching work-based learning are normally called VET trainers. In England the criteria to teach at FE level are flexible in line with the criteria for teaching at higher education level, where the education provider decides upon the suitability of the teaching staff. Only voluntary professional registration exists (with the Society for Education and Training) ([60]Professional membership organisation for teachers and trainers in the UK. See:
https://set.et-foundation.co.uk/
). Advice about professional standards for teachers and trainers in education and training in England is provided by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) ([61]European training foundation (2014).
Professional standards for teachers and trainers in education and training – England [accessed 15.11.2018].
). In England it is not mandatory to obtain Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status to teach in FE colleges, but it can be beneficial for teachers that also wish to teach at secondary level in maintained schools.

Teaching qualifications for the FE sector in England are available from higher education institutions and Ofqual-recognised awarding organisations ([62]Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation:
https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ofqual
). Teacher training also takes place in-house, and in both colleges for further and higher education. Associate Teachers work with less responsibility than Full Teachers/Lecturers in terms of curriculum development and delivery. In the FE sector, Associate Teachers are often known as instructors or trainers and should work under the supervision of a Full Teacher. FE lecturers in Northern Ireland must possess a degree level qualification or a qualification at QCF level 5 ([63]QCF qualifications (N. Ireland, see also Section
8. VET governance) continue to be offered until they are withdrawn by the awarding organisation.
) in a subject area relevant to the subject taught, plus three years relevant industrial experience. Lecturers must also possess or be enrolled in a teaching qualification, such as the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) (FE). In Wales, lecturers are required to hold a Certificate of Education, PGCE (FE) qualifications or Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and those employed as teachers in institutions in the FE sector in Wales are required to have, or to be working toward, these relevant teaching qualifications.

In Scotland, teachers must be registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), which sets the standards and qualifications required by teachers for professional practice. Scottish secondary VET teachers must hold a first degree, a teaching qualification such as the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE), or an undergraduate equivalent, such as the Bachelor of Education (BEd) or a concurrent degree, where a teaching qualification is studied alongside another specialism, e.g. a science or English. Additionally, English or English as a second or other language at Higher (SCQF ([64]Scottish credit and qualifications framework.) level 6/EQF level 4) and mathematics or applications of mathematics at National 5 (SCQF level 5) level is a mandatory requirement. The Scottish College for Educational Leadership provides programmes of learning for teachers after they have qualified; most notably the new Into Headship programme at SCQF level 11 (EQF 7) will be mandatory for all new head teachers from 2019. VET Trainers and VET teachers/lecturers in tertiary colleges do not need to register with the GTCS, although it is desirable and strongly suggested by the Inspectorate of Education – Education Scotland. It is moreover considered preferential to hold a GTCS recognised further education teaching qualification or be working towards one.

The Education Workforce Council (EWC) is the independent regulator in Wales for VET teachers in local authority funded schools, further education (FE) VET teachers and learning support staff in both school and FE settings. From April 2015, the requirement for professional registration was extended to FE teachers, and from April 2016 registration is also compulsory for school/FE learning support workers. Secondary VET teachers must possess a university degree, GCSE ([65]General Certificate of Secondary Education (RQF/CQFW levels 1 and 2 corresponding to EQF levels 2 and 3 respectively). See also:
http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_england_and_northern_ireland_-_european_inventory_on_nqf_2016.pdf
) subjects and a teaching qualification.

FE VET teacher qualifications available in England, N Ireland and Wales include the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE for FE), which is a postgraduate programme leading to Full Teacher status, and in England the Level 3 Award in Education and Training, which is a short introduction to FE teaching, the Level 4 Certificate in Education and Training, and the Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training, which is the minimum qualification needed to obtain Full Teacher status.

There is no legal requirement for teachers in FE in England and N Ireland to complete CPD. On average, teachers completed 15 hours of CPD per year ([66]https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/continuing-professional-development-teachers-and-trainers-working-adult-education-and-78_en)

The Education and Training Foundation operates in England to improve professionalism and standards in the FE and skills sector and provides opportunities for CPD. Ofsted is the inspection agency for the quality of teacher education in England.

The Scottish College for Educational Leadership provides programmes of learning for teachers after they have qualified; most notably the new Into Headship programme at SCQF level 11 (EQF 7) will be mandatory for all new head teachers from 2019. In Scotland, it is recommended that VET teachers undertake six days of CPD annually ([67]https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/continuing-professional-development-teachers-and-trainers-working-adult-education-and-80_en)

In Wales, FE teachers should undertake 30 hours of CPD annually.

More information is available in the Cedefop ReferNet thematic perspective on teachers and trainers ([68]http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/country-reports/teachers-and-trainers).

Various methods are in place to anticipate skill needs:

  • the Labour Force Survey (LFS) results, published regularly by the Office for National Statistics, contain labour market statistics;
  • other national, regional and sectoral surveys and audits, such as the Employer Skills Survey ([69]Department for Education (2018).
    Employer Skills Survey 2017: UK [accessed 12.10.2018].
    ) and Working Futures ([70]UKCES (2016).
    Working Futures 2014 to 2024 [accessed 22.2.2017].
    ), used along with the LFS to determine labour market needs and gaps;
  • skills audits and surveys of employers’ opinions.

Other stakeholders involved in providing information and recommendations for skills provision include:

  • the Confederation of British Industry, whose research anticipates a growing skills gap with a particular need for higher level skills ([71]CBI/Pearson (2016).
    The right combination [accessed 22.2.2017].
    );
  • the Department for Education (DfE) launched a model to anticipate future demand for, and cost of, apprenticeships in initial and continuing VET in a system driven by employer demand in 2017 ([72]Department for Education (2017).
    Long-term apprenticeship model appraisal [accessed 15.11.2018]
    );
  • the Long-term Apprenticeship Model forecasts apprenticeship starts and costs for both levy and non-levy paying employers.

Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) are independent, employer-led organisations working towards defining skills needs and skills standards in their industries. National Occupational Standards (NOS) ([73]See Section
12. Shaping VET qualifications - design.
) have been developed by SSCs and Standards Setting Organisations working with employers and national and regional organisations to specify competences required in the workplace.

In England, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) work towards improving local needs and bring together local and regional stakeholders in business and local authorities. LEPs and the new powers to English cities in the Localism Act are designed to give more freedom and a greater voice to local enterprises, in order to create a more demand-led qualification and skills system with a local focus.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) has developed Skills Investment Plans for key sectors in collaboration with Industry Leadership Groups and other key industry players by analysing labour market and skills supply research. Regional Skills Assessment Plans take into consideration regional challenges and opportunities. The Employability, Skills and Lifelong Learning Analytical Services Unit is part of the Scottish Government and conducts research that supports policy developments in VET, higher education and lifelong learning. Topics for research include skills shortages and gaps and training opportunities. In Wales these functions are carried out by Knowledge and Analytical Services and the Labour Market Information Unit within the Welsh Government.

The Department for the Economy requires further education colleges in Northern Ireland to submit annual development plans in line with the Government’s priorities and adhere to Public Service Agreements and Funded Learning Unit models regarding finances in relation to strategic priorities. The skills barometer project built a model to estimate future skill needs and gaps by level, sector and subject area across a range of economic outcomes ([74]The project was undertaken as part of a three-year sponsorship arrangement between the Department for the Economy and the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre.).

VET qualifications - designers and concepts

The Regulated Qualifications Framework (England and N. Ireland) removed the requirements to structure qualifications in terms of units and learning outcomes ([75]The RQF gives awarding organisations increased freedom and flexibility to develop qualifications that meet specific labour market needs. Qualifications are now expected to be validated and supported directly by employers to ensure qualifications measure the knowledge and skills necessary for industry, rather than follow prescriptive rules and structures imposed by government agencies. Level descriptors have been revised, but the same eight framework levels (plus entry levels, see Table UK national qualifications frameworks in relation to the EQF in section
8) remain from the previous qualifications and credit framework (QCF), and the existing qualifications continue to be offered until they are withdrawn by the awarding organisation.
); however, qualifications currently available are largely unit- and outcomes-based and allow for flexibility in delivery of training, except for new apprenticeships in England ([76]In England most apprenticeship frameworks are in the process of being replaced by new apprenticeship standards developed by groups of employers from 2015/16. The new standards are currently run in parallel with the frameworks and comprise on-the-job and off-the-job training and learning, linked to specific occupations, and apprentices are assessed by an independent assessor from industry or a separate training provider to the one the student attended at the end of the training.).

The qualification frameworks in Scotland and Wales continue to be learning outcomes and unit based. Adult learning in particular is often centred on individual learners’ needs both in terms of content and delivery method. Training programmes aimed at young people usually follow a more standardised structure. Qualifications and their broad content, unit and credit structure, learning outcomes and assessment standards are developed by independent awarding organisations in line with regulators’ regulatory requirements and industry experts’ and other stakeholders’ input.

Assessment of VET qualifications

Study programmes leading to formal qualifications at secondary and tertiary, non-university level are internally assessed within education providers and workplaces if appropriate, but are not awarded until assessments have been externally verified by awarding organisations (also called examination boards) in the UK. Education providers that are registered as examination centres by one or more awarding organisations can conduct examinations for qualifications awarded by these awarding organisations.

Assessment of practical training

Work-based learning is also assessed in workplaces by qualified assessors. Assessors are usually trained staff with industry experience and knowledge of assessment approaches. In order to assess some qualifications, the assessors are required to possess relevant assessor qualifications as well.

Apprentices completing the new apprenticeship standards in England ([77]See Section
7. Apprenticeships
) are assessed at the end of the programme of training by an Independent End Point Assessor who is required to have up-to-date and thorough knowledge and experience of the specific occupation and ideally possess a Level 3 (EQF 4) assessor qualification.

Validation of prior learning is also possible, see Section 14. Validation of prior learning

Awarding bodies

Awarding organisations are also responsible for awarding the final qualifications and organising external moderation of student achievement. These organisations are recognised to operate in England and Northern Ireland by Ofqual and CCEA ([78]Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment.) Regulation respectively. Recognised Awarding Organisations are entitled to award accredited qualifications which are listed in the Register of Regulated Qualifications and part of the RQF.

Awarding organisations with approved qualifications registered on the CQFW ([79]Credit and qualifications framework of Wales.) must be recognised by Qualifications Wales and are listed on the Qualifications in Wales database.

The main awarding organisation in Scotland is the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which is a quasi-autonomous non-departmental public body and fulfils the roles of both an awarding body and an accreditation body. There are mechanisms in place to manage the potential conflict of interest between both parts of SQA; the Awarding Body is directly accountable to Scottish Government Ministers and the Accreditation function (SQA Accreditation) is accountable to a statutory Accreditation Committee and thence the Scottish Government. There are also a considerable number of other awarding organisations (including all higher education institutions with degree awarding powers) offering qualifications within the SCQF and also other organisations awarding qualifications often subject to accreditation by SQA Accreditation.

Occupational standards design - the role of employers

Most education and training programmes for young people that are publicly funded lead to a formally recognised qualification. This is part of the quality control process of VET. Education providers create curricula and deliver qualifications created by awarding organisations.

Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) ([80]Independent, employer-led organisations working towards defining skills needs and skills standards in their industries.) and other standard setting organisations, in association with employers, develop, maintain and update National Occupational Standards (NOS) to specify competences required to perform occupations and professions. NOS consist of units describing what individuals must be able to do, know and understand to perform specific jobs. NVQs/SVQs ([81]National vocational qualifications / Scottish vocational qualifications.) and many other vocationally related qualifications are entirely or largely based on NOS or, if relevant, learning outcomes that need to be met for certification. NOS are reviewed to ensure programmes and qualifications include new technologies, innovations and working methods used in the labour market. The Government in England have no longer been mandating the use of NOS within their vocational qualifications system after the end of 2016; however, qualifications designers in England can continue to use NOS if they wish. The development and review of NOS are still continued by the three Devolved Administrations, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Following the change from state funding of the SSCs to self-funded organisations, only the most effective SSCs that are valued by industry have remained operational.

National Skills Academies (NSAs) are employer-led organisations developing the infrastructure and learning resources needed to deliver specialist skills to industry sectors in England. NSAs also strive for training programmes resources to be up-to-date and relevant in the current job market.

VET reform in England - more direct employer engagement in VET design ([82]Department for Education (2018).
Introduction of T levels: policy paper [accessed 15.11.2018]. See also: Institute for Apprenticeships (2019).
What is an apprenticeship standard? [accessed 15.11.2018].
). The design process of VET is changing in England by moving away from a system in which a large number of awarding organisations develop qualifications based on National Occupational Standards (NOS) to a system where the outline content of new vocational qualifications (T levels) based on the knowledge, skills and behaviours related to occupations will be developed by employer-led consortia within 15 main technical routes. New apprenticeship standards (Trailblazers) are already being developed within the same 15 pathways. T level qualifications will be developed by a single awarding organisation for each of the occupational pathways. T levels, designed to be delivered in classroom-based settings, will be phased in from 2020 whilst apprenticeship trailblazers are currently run in parallel with the traditional apprenticeship frameworks.

The Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board (SAAB) is led by employers to strengthen their engagement in apprenticeships and aims to ensure that apprenticeships will be closely linked to areas of economic growth and job opportunities. SAAB oversees the development of apprenticeship frameworks and standards. The Wales Apprenticeship Advisory Board, have taken up a key role in developing policy objectives to ensure that apprenticeships are aligned to changing needs of the industry in Wales.

The Strategic Partnership strategy provides the background for UK Government financed projects in which enterprises, employer federations, trade unions, trade associations, public bodies and other stakeholders collaborate to solve sectoral and regional issues including learning and skills.

Strategic development of VET in England

Strategic development of skills and lifelong learning in England is the remit of the Department for Education (DfE). Design of future VET in England is influenced by reviews such as the Wolf Review of pre-19 vocational education, the Whitehead Review of Adult Vocational Qualifications ([83]Whitehead, N, UKCES (2013).
Review of adult vocational qualifications in England [accessed 15.11.2018].
) and the Richard Review of Apprenticeships ([84]Richard, D. (2012).
The Richard review of apprenticeships [accessed 22.2.2017].
). The former Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) published the Skills for Sustainable Growth strategy ([85]BIS (2010).
Skills for sustainable growth [accessed 15.11.2018].
) in response to the Wolf Review with details of a planned skills reform. The Plan for Growth ([86]HM Treasury and BIS (2011).
The Plan for growth [accessed 22.2.2017].
) strategy mentions that ‘the creation of a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe’ is one of the key skills actions and measures to be achieved. Rigour and Responsiveness in Skills sets out how Apprenticeship reforms, and funding only good quality VET in England, will be accelerated ([87]BIS/DfE (2013).
Rigour and responsiveness in skills [accessed 15.11.2018].
) (see VET learning options about Tech Levels and the Technical Baccalaureate under 4. EQF 4, ISCED 351, 354 [college-based VET]). Fixing the foundations – the UK Government’s productivity plan from 2015 – puts focus on the need to develop a highly skilled workforce to increase productivity ([88]BIS (2015).
Fixing the foundations[accessed 22.2.2017].
). Most recently the Post-16 Skills Plan sets out to streamline VET in England into 15 clear routes leading to skilled employment, either through two-year college courses or apprenticeships ([89]DfE/BIS (2016).
Post-16 skills plan [accessed 15.11.2018].
) as recommended in the Report of the Independent Panel on Technical Education ([90]Sainsbury, D. (2016).
Report of the Independent panel on technical education [accessed 15.11.2018].
).

Strategic development of VET in Scotland

The Scottish Government provides details of skills support in the Skills for Scotland: Accelerating the Recovery and Increasing Sustainable Economic Growth ([91]Scottish Government (2010).
Skills for Scotland: accelerating the recovery and increasing sustainable economic growth [accessed 15.11.2018].
), the Review of Post-16 Education and Vocational Training in Scotland ([92]Scottish Government (2011).
Review of post-16 education and vocational training in Scotland [accessed 15.11.2018].
), the National Youth Work Strategy ([93]Scottish Government (2014b).
National youth work strategy 2014-19 [accessed 22.2.2017].
) and Adult Learning in Scotland: Statement of Ambition ([94]Scottish Government (2014c).
Adult learning in Scotland, statement of ambition[accessed 22.2.2017].
). The Government started a reform of the post-16 education which aims to increase efficiency and flexibility in learner provision and value for money as well as better meet regional needs. A further aim is to simplify the skills system so it is easier to understand for both individuals and employers. The Curriculum for Excellence includes more skills-for-work options for young people in addition to a greater emphasis on entrepreneurship ([95]Scottish Government (2009).
Innovation for Scotland [accessed 15.11.2018].
). The group responsible for the review of the curriculum comprised representatives from national and local Government, Education Scotland, higher and further education institutions, schools and the Scottish Qualifications Authority in addition to business interest groups, teacher unions and parent organisations. The Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce’s final report ([96]Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce (2014).
Education working for all! Final report [accessed 15.11.2018].
) from June 2014 includes recommendations on preparing school leavers for work, college education focused on employment and progression in learning, Apprenticeships focused on higher level skills and industry needs, and engaging employers with education and recruiting young people.

Strategic development of VET in Wales

The Welsh Government’s Programme for Government emphasises the importance of skills development in relation to economic growth and sustainable jobs. Qualifications are developed according to the CQFW high level principles. Future VET will be shaped by the Review of Qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds in Wales ([97]Welsh Government (2012).
Review of qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds in Wales [accessed 22.2.2017].
) (see Section 2.2.3 regarding the Welsh Baccalaureate), the policy statement on skills ([98]Welsh Government (2014).
Policy statement on skills [accessed 22.2.2017].
) and the Welsh Government’s Skills implementation plan ([99]Welsh Government (2014).
Skills implementation plan [accessed 15.11.2018].
). The latter emphasises the importance of aligning skills provision with the current and future jobs market, local needs and employer engagement. Welsh Government published Towards 2030: a Framework for Building a World-Class Post-Compulsory Education System for Wales in March 2016 ([100]Welsh Government (2016).
A framework for building a world-class post-compulsory education system for Wales [accessed 15.11.2018].
). The report’s recommendations include the aim to develop clear and flexible learner-centred learning and career pathways and to introduce more state regulation into the current market-demand driven education system.

Strategic development of VET in Northern Ireland

The Department for Employment and Learning’s (now: Department for the Economy) vision for skills development is articulated within the Skills Strategy for Northern Ireland, Success through Skills – Transforming Futures ([101]DEL (2011).
Success through skills: transforming futures [accessed 4.6.2019].
), which sets the overarching strategy for the development of skills (including vocational education and training) in Northern Ireland. This strategy will be realised by focusing on those entering the labour force for the first time; up-skilling the existing workforce; and ensuring that those currently excluded from the labour force are provided with the skills to compete for jobs, retain jobs and progress up the skills ladder. To help achieve these ambitions, the Department works closely with the Department of Education to ensure there is a strong collaboration between schools, further education colleges, universities and employers.

Other reviews in Northern Ireland aiming to enhance and shape future VET policy include the new Northern Ireland Strategy for Apprenticeships ([102]DELNI (2014).
Securing our success: the Northern Ireland strategy on apprenticeships [accessed 4.6.2019].
) which recommends that Apprenticeships should be at least two years long and start from level 3 (EQF level 4) (see 3. EQF 4, ISCED 354 [Apprenticeship]). The Strategy for youth training from 2015 describes plans to create a baccalaureate-style curriculum that includes work-based learning that also replaces apprenticeship provision at level 2 ([103]Department for the Economy (2015).
Generating our success [accessed 15.11.2018].
). The 2016 Further Education (FE) Strategy gives colleges in Northern Ireland a major role in delivering apprenticeships and youth training as well as featuring prominently in strategic advisory forums and sectoral partnerships tasked with matching skills demand and delivery ([104]Department for the Economy (2016).
Further education means success [accessed 15.11.2018].
).

Strategies to support learning opportunities for vulnerable groups

In Wales, the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW) recognises lifelong learning such as vendor/industry/professional qualifications and smaller ‘bite size’ units of accredited learning. Such achievements can be highly positive and help to raise the aspirations of disadvantaged learners. The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) also recognises lifelong learning and bite size pieces of learning from all sectors and all types of organisations, including many aimed at disadvantaged and vulnerable learners. The SCQF includes two levels which are below level 1 of the EQF. At these levels the emphasis is placed on the learning which takes place as a result of learners’ participation in, and the experience of, situations as well as the carrying out of basic tasks. The inclusion of these lower levels allows the SCQF to be an inclusive NQF for all learners including those who may not have been successful in mainstream education.

The Northern Ireland Strategy for Further Education, Further Education Means Success published in January 2016, recommends that colleges, in partnership with organisations in the voluntary, community, public and private sectors, support diversity and social inclusion through widening access to provision for those with low or no skills or who experience other barriers to learning. The strategy commits the colleges to adopting international best practice in the use of technology enhanced learning to support and improve teaching and learning, and adopt flexible approaches to learning to meet the needs of learners and employers.

Additional funding for learning opportunities of vulnerable people is also available in England and Scotland in section: 9. VET financing mechanisms

Most education and training programmes for young people that are publicly funded lead to a formally recognised qualification. This is part of the quality control process of VET.

VET regulators and inspection/accreditation agencies in formal VET

Different inspection and review bodies exist in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; they are list in the table below (see also section 8 VET governance):

England

Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) - school, further education and non-degree higher education qualifications

Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) – schools and further education colleges

Scotland

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) - school, further education and higher education qualifications not awarded by HEIs

Education Scotland - schools and further education colleges

Wales

Qualifications Wales - school, further education and non-degree higher education qualifications

Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales (Estyn) - schools and further education colleges

Northern Ireland

Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) - school, further education and non-degree higher education qualifications

Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) – schools, further education colleges and other providers delivering publicly-funded training programmes

Source: ReferNet UK.

QA arrangements for VET qualifications

Qualifications are designed and issued by independent awarding organisations. Those organisations set question papers or other assessments for their qualifications and examine candidates as well as reviewing examination centres’ assessment of candidates and reviewing and verifying the work and standards of the centres. The processes of external review of assessment in examination centres are often referred to as verification. Verification is conducted by qualified individuals with quality assurance of assessment qualifications at level 4 (EQF level 5).

During the review leading to the withdrawal of the regulatory arrangements for the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), for England, Ofqual ([105]The regulator of all vocational qualifications within the RQF (Regulated qualifications framework in England and N. Ireland).) removed the requirement for awarding organisations to submit new vocational qualifications for accreditation before they are registered within the qualifications framework. Secondary school qualifications such as GCSEs ([106]General Certificate of Secondary Education (RQF/CQFW levels 1 and 2 corresponding to EQF levels 2 and 3 respectively). See also:
http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_england_and_northern_ireland_-_european_inventory_on_nqf_2016.pdf
) and technical qualifications with detailed design rules are still subject to a spot check of the qualifications’ specification and a set of specimen assessment papers and mark schemes ([107]Ofqual.
Accreditation requirement [accessed 20.2.2019].
). The responsibility for quality assurance and relevance of other qualifications rests with the awarding organisations, although periodic Ofqual audits take place.

In 2016, CCEA ([108]Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment.) Regulation took over the regulation responsibility of vocational qualifications, within the RQF, that are exclusively provided in Northern Ireland. The work includes the recognition and monitoring of awarding organisations that operate in Northern Ireland and the accreditation of the qualifications they offer in Northern Ireland against published criteria and conditions.

Organisations which provide non-university qualifications can elect to be accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority Accreditation in accordance with the Scottish Qualifications Authority’s (SQA) regulatory principles, but this is not mandatory. All programmes accredited by SQA will be credit rated and included on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). However, organisations can also get programmes credit rated and included on the SCQF through a range of organisations which carry out this function. SQA’s Accreditation function has a mandatory remit to accredit certain vocational qualifications, including all Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs). In addition, if an alternative competence based qualification is to be used as the mandatory qualification in a Modern apprenticeship framework then it must also be accredited by SQA. Certain other “licence to practice” qualifications must be accredited by SQA including the security sector and the licenced trade sector ([109]SQA Accreditation (2014).
Regulatory principles [accessed 15.11.2018].
).

Qualifications Wales was established in 2015 to take over the responsibility of approving and reviewing qualifications, in addition to developing the design of new qualification requirements and commissioning awarding organisations to develop new qualifications, in Wales. Qualifications Wales is undertaking a long term programme of review and reform of vocational qualifications in each major sector of employment. Four out of eight sector reviews have been or are close to be completed ([110]Qualifications Wales.
Sector reviews [accessed 20.2.2019].
). The reviews aim to find out whether current qualifications are effective in meeting the needs of learners as well as addressing the needs of employers, learning providers and professional bodies.

QA arrangements in apprenticeship

The Institute for Apprenticeships started operations in England in 2017 as an independent statutory body with a remit to develop and maintain quality criteria for apprenticeships and assessment plans, support employer-led development of new apprenticeship standards and regulate the quality of apprenticeships, including both approval functions for apprenticeship standards and quality assurance of assessment ([111]Institute for Apprenticeships.
What we do [accessed 15.11.2018].
). The institute is due to also take over responsibility for implementing the T level reform and change its name to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education in 2019.

Employer-led sectoral partnerships are being set up in Northern Ireland as part of the apprenticeship reform to inform the approach for ongoing assessment and testing at the end of apprenticeships.

Non-formal training

Training organisations offering non-formal qualifications may register with the British Accreditation Council for Independent Further and Higher Education. Investors in People (IiP) is a nationally recognised business standard encouraging enterprises to invest in training. IiP certification gives an indication that an employer is committed to the development of workers.

There are generally less transfer opportunities to further and higher education for qualifications obtained outside a formal qualifications framework in the UK. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is granted at institutional discretion based on the RPL policy of individual awarding organisations in England.

Guidelines for the Recognition of Prior Informal Learning form part of the SCQF ([112]Scottish credit and qualifications framework.) in Scotland. There was previously a RPL network connected to the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership which published a RPL toolkit ([113]SCQF (2010).
Facilitating the recognition of prior learning: toolkit. https://www.sqa.org.uk/files_ccc/RPLToolkitUpdatedDecember2010.pdf [accessed 15.11.2018].
) and an online guide that aims to increase and improve recognition of non-formal and informal learning as well as formal learning. While the RPL Network is no longer in operation, the tools and supporting workshops continue to be available.

In England, RARPA (Recognising and Recording Progress and Achievement in non-accredited learning) was furthermore devised by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (now: the Learning and Work Institute) and the former Learning and Skills Development Agency to aid recognition and validation of learning that does not lead to a formal award. RARPA includes a staged process in assessing individual learners’ achievement by taking into consideration their starting point, identification of learning objectives, recording of progress and end of programme assessment.

Lifelong Learning mechanisms have been developed to allow non-formal education and training, such as community learning, in-company training and continuing professional development, to be recognised in accordance with the high level principles of the Credit and Qualifications Framework of Wales ([114]CQFW (2015). Quality assured lifelong learning (QALL) - Formal and non-formal learning. Department for Education and Skills, Welsh Government.
https://gweddill.gov.wales/docs/dcells/publications/151013-qall-e-brochure-en.pdf
).

The Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland aims to encourage more people, who may have less in the way of formal qualifications, to consider applying for places in higher education on the basis of accredited prior experiential learning (APEL). The Northern Ireland University and College Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) Guidelines ([115]Belfast Metropolitan College [s.d].
Higher education accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL) process [accessed 15.11.2018].
) were developed to facilitate entry to higher education – particularly Foundation degrees – for those who lack the required formal academic qualifications for higher education entry by accepting vocational qualifications and experiential learning partly or in full. The guidelines were endorsed by the universities and college sector and draw upon good practice within the sector and across the UK.

For more information about arrangements for the validation of non-formal and informal learning please visit Cedefop’s European database ([116]http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/data-visualisations/european-database-on-validation-of-non-formal-and-informal-learning).

Across the UK, austerity measures have seen many cuts in state funding in recent years. Whilst the pre-16 schools budget has remained largely protected, reductions have occurred in the 16 to 19 and 19+ further education and skills budgets. However, various initiatives to raise numbers and the status of VET are in place in the UK ([117]The UK Government and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set individual budgets regarding education and skills funding.).

Training leave (England)

The Right to Request Time to Train initiative is a legal right in England to allow workers in businesses with more than 250 employees to request time to take up work-related training that will benefit the business. Training can be both formal and non-formal and take place in-house, at an external training organisation or be delivered through e-learning. Whether the business will pay for the training or pay the employee’s salary during the training is left up to the discretion of the employer.

Trade Union Learning Funds (all four countries)

The Trade Union Learning Fund in England is administered by Unionlearn and provides funding to develop the capacity of trade unions and Union Learning Representatives to work with employees, employers and learning providers, to encourage workplace learning. The Scottish Union Learning Fund, the Wales Union Learning Fund and the Union Learning Fund for Northern Ireland fulfil similar roles.

The Youth Engagement and Employment Action Plan (Wales)

The action plan goal is to help young people move back into education, training and employment. Measures taken to achieve this include the Jobs Growth Wales initiative that supports training and work experience. An evaluation of the action plan based on 2015 data found indications of a reduction in the rates of young people who are NEET, but that it was too early to determine the overall success of the plan ([118]Welsh Government (2016b).
Youth engagement and progression framework: formative evaluation follow-up study [accessed 15.11.2018].
).

Financial support measures for specific target groups

Individual Learning Accounts (ILA) were replaced with Individual Training Accounts (ITA) ([119]https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/what-we-do/employability-skills/sds-individual-training-accounts/) in October 2017. ITAs are payments for the unemployed and not currently in education or those in low paid work in Scotland who wish to learn a new skill or develop their skills further within recognised training programmes. ITAs focus on vocational courses and qualifications in a curriculum area aligned with the Scottish Government’s Labour Market Strategy.

An Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is available to Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish students between the ages of 16 and 18 depending on the students’ and their families’ financial situation. Bursary Funds are available via schools and colleges for 16-18 year olds who struggle to afford the cost of participating in their studies in England. Bursary Funds are specifically targeted towards vulnerable young people, such as those in care, on income support or those with disabilities, but also to other students struggling to afford transport, food or equipment costs. FE providers also receive learner support funding to support eligible adult learners with a specific financial hardship which is preventing them from taking part and/or continuing in learning.

Free lunches for disadvantaged students were extended to 16-18 year old learners at further education colleges (that offer predominantly vocational courses) in England from the autumn of 2014. These free meals were previously only available for disadvantaged students in secondary schools with sixth form provision.

The Entitlement Framework (Northern Ireland)

The Entitlement Framework (EF) came into force in Northern Ireland in 2015, building on the Vocational Enhancement Programme which encouraged collaboration between post-14 school provision and vocational FE college provision. The EF guarantees in law that all learners in Northern Ireland have access to a broad and balanced curriculum with a minimum of 21 courses at lower and upper secondary level, a third of which must be applied and a third, general. Qualifications under the EF contain a range of courses that can be individually tailored to enhance students’ employment chances and meet Government priority skills areas. Post-primary schools work together in local Area Learning Communities alongside further education colleges to plan and provide the full range of general and applied course choices for the young people in an area.

Use of EU tools to support mobility actions

The UK has the main building blocks in place to support the European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET). ECVET aims to give people greater control over their individual learning experiences and promote mobility between different countries and different learning environments. ECVET activities are included in the UK Erasmus+ National Agency (the British Council and Ecorys (UK)) yearly work programme. UK ECVET Experts, appointed by Ecorys UK, raise awareness of ECVET to key stakeholders and promote and encourage organisations involved in mobility to use ECVET in geographical mobility linking ECVET to Erasmus+.

The Apprenticeship Delivery Board (England)

The board consists of representatives from Barclays Banks, Fujitsu UK, the TV company Channel 4 and the City of London amongst others, that will meet and advise the government on how best to expand apprenticeships ([120]UK Government (2018).
Apprenticeship delivery board [accessed 15.10.2018].
). The board furthermore works with the National Apprenticeship Service and the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network ([121]Department for Education [s.d.].
Apprenticeship Ambassador Network [accessed 15.11.2018].
) to stimulate interest in and take up of apprenticeships in England.

The Flexible Workforce Development Fund (Scotland)

The fund is delivered by the Scottish Funding Council and is available to Scottish businesses that contributed towards the UK Government’s apprenticeship levy. Funding can support up-skilling and re-training of individual employees in partnership with Scottish colleges. Employers in Scotland are eligible for a payment of up to £4 000 when employing an unemployed young person as an apprentice through Scotland’s Employer Recruitment Incentive. This initiative is targeting young people facing barriers to employment, such as care leavers, carers, ex-offenders and disabled people.

Financial support for apprenticeships

Access is a Welsh Government programme that provides financial support of up to £3 000 to employers to take on unemployed adults (age 18+) as apprentices. The financial support may be used as a contribution towards wages and up to £1 000 in addition may be used for job-related skills training.

An Employer Incentive Payment of between £250 and £1 500 is available to employers whose apprentices successfully completes a full apprenticeship framework in Northern Ireland.

Careers advisors

Careers advice is offered by a range of professionals, including teachers and careers advisers employed in the education, social work and youth work sectors as well as job centre personnel. Their training varies from in-service training to formal and professional careers guidance qualifications. The Careers Profession Task Force’s report Towards a strong careers profession ([122]Careers Profession Task Force (2012).
Towards a strong careers profession [accessed 15.11.2018].
) made detailed recommendations on raising the professional nature of the workforce. One area of concern identified was that careers advisers were too often under-qualified. Following on from this, the Institute of Employability Professionals has introduced qualifications in employability services along with Education Development International. A unified professional body for the careers profession, the Careers Development Institute, maintains a register of Career Development Professionals and a framework for professional development of careers advisors in the UK.

Qualifications in Career Development, such as those developed by the former sector skills council Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK), are available at RQF levels 4, 5 and 6, but the Careers Profession Alliance’s current voluntary registration requires a level 6 qualification for full registration. Qualifications at postgraduate level are also being developed.

Scottish Careers Advisors are required to hold a postgraduate qualification in career guidance and development in addition to an SDS training plan. Advisers in the Northern Ireland Careers Service similarly should possess a relevant postgraduate level qualification as well as a work-based qualification.

Careers advice services

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) provides a Careers Information, Advice and Guidance (CIAG) service across Scotland. SDS works in partnership with education providers and job centres. Targets specified in the More Choices, More Chances strategy include young people at risk of becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment and Training). SDS has also set up the My World of Work website containing CIAG resources. The Commission on Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce recommends incorporating careers advice before subject specialisation in secondary schools, to involve employers more closely with schools, educate teachers to provide comprehensive advice, and include career management skills in the curriculum.

In December 2017 the Careers Strategy for England was published. It sets out a long term plan to build a world class careers system that will help young people and adults choose the career that’s right for them. The strategy has been developed in partnership with the Gatsby Charitable Foundation which has developed a set of benchmarks, based on rigorous national and international research, which define excellence in careers guidance ([123]Gatsby Charitable Foundation (2013).
Good career guidance [accessed 15.11.2018].
). The strategy is co-ordinated through an expanded role for the Careers & Enterprise Company, working across all the Gatsby Benchmarks to help schools and colleges deliver the ambitions in the strategy.

The National Careers Service (NCS) provides advice on learning, training and employment for young people and adults in England. The service is delivered by local area based contractors who provide access to face-to-face and telephone advice to adults 19 years (or 18 if unemployed or in custody) and over. The NCS also comprise the National Careers Service Helpline (NCH), which offers web chat, text and telephone support to adults and young people, and National Careers Service website gives customers access to information and advice. The National Apprenticeship Service in England runs an Apprenticeship and a Traineeship Vacancy Service, which includes an online search function and mobile app.

Careers Wales offers an all age careers guidance service. The Welsh strategy for further development of careers services is outlined in Future ambitions: Developing careers services in Wales ([124]Welsh Government (2010).
Future ambitions: developing careers services in Wales [accessed 15.11.2018].
). Careers Wales also maintains an Apprenticeship Matching Service available for employers and individual applicants.

The Northern Ireland Careers Service provides an all age, impartial careers education and guidance service to promote employment, education and training opportunities. Careers advisers operate throughout Northern Ireland from Job Centres, Jobs and Benefits Offices and stand-alone careers offices. The Careers Service also offers careers guidance via other channels such as telephone, email and webchat. Careers advisers use evidence outlined in the Department for the Economy’s Skills Barometer to highlight the skills and qualifications most valued by employers and the sectors expected to experience employment growth, thus helping to balance skills supply and demand. Advisers also work with careers teachers in schools and further education colleges to provide impartial advice and guidance to pupils from 14-19. In Northern Ireland, careers education is a statutory area of learning in the common curriculum for all grant-aided post-primary schools. In addition, further education colleges and higher education institutions offer careers guidance to their students. The strategy for careers education and guidance in Northern Ireland, Preparing for Success 2015-2020 which was published in March 2016 sets out a coherent and forward thinking strategic vision for the careers system in Northern Ireland ([125]DfE (2018)
Preparing for success 2015-20 [accessed 15.11.2018].
).

Careers Information, Advice and Guidance (CIAG) is also offered in schools, colleges, higher education institutions and third sector bodies across the UK. Careers advice is available from trade unions as well and Unionlearn has developed their Strategy for Supporting Learners through their Union Learning Representatives, specifically targeting those who are disadvantaged in the workplace. Schools and colleges in England have a duty to provide access to independent careers guidance for pupils in school years 8 to 13 (ages 12-18) and for 19 to 25 year-olds with an Education, Health and Care Plan. Government funding for careers provision forms part of overall school and college budgets and it is left up to the discretion of the education provider how much is spent. Local authorities no longer have an obligation to provide careers guidance, but still have a duty to encourage, enable and assist young people to take part in education and training. Careers education and guidance is also provided by schools and colleges in Wales for students aged 14-19. The Careers and the World of Work Framework also forms part of the curriculum for 11-16 year-olds in maintained schools in Wales.

Jobcentre+ advisers work within schools in England to deliver impartial career advice intended to support schools in engaging young people (aged 12 to 18) identified as being at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) or who face potential disadvantage in the labour market. The initiative, known as the Pathfinder programme, will provide students with information on traineeships and apprenticeships, accessing work experience, the local labour market and soft skills that employers expect.

Ofsted’s Learner View website allows FE college students in England to rate their college. The results are available for users to search and view to gather an indication of the performance of a college.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has added information about vocational courses and general careers advice to their website under the name UCAS Progress.

Please see also:

Vocational education and training system chart

Tertiary

Click on a programme type to see more info
Programme Types

EQF 5, 6

Higher apprenticeships

ISCED 551, 554, 665

Higher apprenticeships leading to EQF level 5 and 6, ISCED 551, 554, 665
EQF level
5, 6
ISCED-P 2011 level

551, 554, 665

Usual entry grade

13

Usual completion grade

18 (16 in Scotland)

Usual entry age

18

Usual completion age

24 (22 in Scotland)

Length of a programme (years)

1 – 6 (1-4 in Scotland) ([186]Apprenticeships at this level usually last one to six years (one to four years in Scotland), with the duration varying depending on the programme, employment contract and the needs of the apprentice. In Northern Ireland, Higher level apprenticeships must be a minimum of two years duration.)

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

N

Education is compulsory up to 16 (18 in England).

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

Is it initial VET?

Y

Is it continuing VET?

Y

Is it offered free of charge?

Information not available

Is it available for adults?

Y

Programmes are accessible to learners over 18.

ECVET or other credits
Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

Apprenticeship programmes in the UK require apprentices to be trained both:

  • on-the-job; and
  • off-the-job.

Off-the-job learning may be organised:

  • as one or two days per week at an education and training provider; or
  • through longer, less frequent blocks of learning;
  • evening classes are also offered.

Learning options

Higher Apprenticeships in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are offered in the shape of apprenticeship frameworks ([188]Which include a work contract, a technical/occupational qualification within the RQF/CQFW and other general subjects relevant to the occupational profile.).

In England, new apprenticeship standards developed by groups of employers from 2017/18 are currently run in parallel with the frameworks and comprise on-the-job and off-the-job training and learning, linked to specific occupations.

Scottish Modern apprenticeships include:

  • a work contract;
  • SVQs (as mandatory components) or alternative competence based qualifications; and
  • Work Place Core Skills that comprise ICT, problem solving, numeracy, communication and working with others;
  • Sectors may decide to include other qualifications, such as HNCs/HNDs or other vocational qualifications either as a mandatory or optional enhancement.

Scottish Technical and Professional apprenticeships do not include Work Place Core Skills; rather they include a range of SVQ units designated as career skills. Technical and Professional apprenticeships may include work-based qualifications other than SVQs (or alternative competence based qualifications) such as SQA HNDs or professional qualifications as the mandatory qualification.

Main providers

Colleges, independent training providers, universities

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

<=80%

The programme is delivered as apprenticeship (minimum 20% - one day a week for a full-time apprentice- is ‘off the job’ training).

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)
  • on-the-job apprenticeship training;
Main target groups

Higher apprenticeships are for adult (18+) learners, many of whom may already be employed prior to starting the apprenticeship programme.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Entry to these non-degree higher education qualifications are usually based on possession of an EQF level 4 qualification from school or college in either vocational or academic subject areas. Entry is allowed at the discretion of the college guided by the awarding body.

Specific entrance requirements to apprenticeships vary depending on the occupational area and the level of the apprenticeship framework/standard.

Degree apprenticeships (in Scotland: Higher and Graduate apprenticeships) create a different pathway to obtaining university degrees. Whilst academic ability, including grades and numerical and reasoning skills are considered by the university or college, candidates are also interviewed for a job with a company (unless they are already employed with the company). Both employers and universities must be satisfied the applicant meets their respective requirements. There may therefore be a joint recruitment process.

Assessment of learning outcomes

Assessment of framework Higher apprenticeships (see Section 18. LEARNING FORM): In England, new apprenticeship standards currently run in parallel with the frameworks and comprise on-the-job and off-the-job training and learning and are linked to specific occupations. Apprentices are continually assessed by an independent assessor from industry or a separate training provider to the one the student attended at the end of the training. Apprentices also undergo end-point assessment via a government-approved end point assessment organisation.

Assessment of Scottish Modern apprenticeships (see Section 18. LEARNING FORM): In Scotland, end-point assessment is not mandatory for Scottish Modern Apprenticeships. As Scottish Modern Apprenticeships are offered across a broad range of sectors, the format of the training and assessment varies considerably across the apprenticeships available.

Assessment of Technical and Professional apprenticeships (see Section 18. LEARNING FORM): As with the Scottish Modern Apprenticeships, for the Technical and Professional apprenticeships end-point assessment is not mandatory for Scottish Modern Apprenticeships. The format of the training and assessment varies considerably across the apprenticeships available.

Diplomas/certificates provided

Apprenticeships at this level are called:

  • higher apprenticeships,
  • higher level apprenticeships,
  • degree apprenticeships,
  • graduate apprenticeships,
  • professional apprenticeship,
  • technical apprenticeships and modern apprenticeships.

A certificate may be awarded along with a vocational qualification, such as:

  • Foundation degree;
  • BTEC Higher National Certificates and Diplomas, along with NVQs and SVQs.

Degree and professional apprenticeships result in the award of a Bachelor degree (EQF 6).

Examples of qualifications

Economist, project manager, quantity surveyor ([189]UCAS: Find a Job (Apprenticeships: Degree/Higher):
https://careerfinder.ucas.com/jobs/degree/#browsing [accessed 11.6.19].
).

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

There are good articulation options for progression from higher VET programmes at RQF levels 4 and 5/SCQF levels 7 and 8 (EQF level 5), such as HNC and HNDs, to the second or third year of a Bachelor degree in a related field in the UK.

However, admission and transfer arrangements are made at the discretion of the admitting institution. See VET programme box ‘College-based higher VET for information about progression opportunities in Scotland.

In Northern Ireland all Higher level apprenticeship opportunities must offer a linear progression pathway from EQF Level 4 to 5 to 6 to 7, either to further vocational learning, or to part-time provision.

Possession of a Bachelor degree allows entry to postgraduate programmes at universities and other qualifications at EQF level 7.

Destination of graduates

Information not available

Awards through validation of prior learning

information not available

General education subjects

Y

Apprenticeships in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are offered in the shape of apprenticeship frameworks ([190]A work contract, a formal technical/occupational qualification.) and include

  • general subjects relevant to the occupational profile
Key competences

Scottish Modern apprenticeship include (see also learning options in section 18)

  • Work Place Core Skills comprise ICT, problem solving, numeracy, communication and working with others.
Application of learning outcomes approach

Information not available

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

EQF 5

College-based

higher VET

ISCED 551, 554

College-based higher VET leading to EQF level 5, ISCED 551, 554
EQF level
5
ISCED-P 2011 level

551, 554

Usual entry grade

13

Usual completion grade

15

Usual entry age

18

Usual completion age

20

Length of a programme (years)

2 (up to) ([191]Although short courses and individual units of study can be completed, most full-time VET programmes at this level take between one and two years to complete. BTEC/SQA higher national programmes are vocational short-cycle higher education programmes under the framework for qualifications in the European higher education area (FQ-EHEA) and are either certificates (approximately one year) or diplomas (two years). Programmes can take longer when studied part-time.)

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

N

Education is compulsory up to 16 (18 in England).

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

Is it initial VET?

Y

Is it continuing VET?

Y

The programme is also available in adult education/continuing training.

Is it offered free of charge?

Information not available

Is it available for adults?

Y

Learners entering these programmes are over 18.

ECVET or other credits
Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

VET learning options include:

  • full-time school-based learning;
  • part-time in adult/continuing education;
  • classroom-based programme in conjunction with an apprenticeship.

VET learning options per qualification type:

  • BTEC/SQA ([193]Scottish Qualifications Authority.) Higher Nationals are often studied part-time;
  • SVQs/NVQs are often taken by employed people or in conjunction with an apprenticeship, but are also available in college settings.
Main providers

Colleges

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

Information not available

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)
  • workshops;
  • in-company training;
  • on-the-job apprenticeship training ([194]All the options listed may all be included in programmes of this type, but the inclusion and amount depends on the programme.).
Main target groups

Vocational study at this level encompasses stand-alone qualifications for applicants aged 18+.

These study programmes may also be completed by employees looking for career progression.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Entry to these non-degree higher education qualifications are usually based on possession of an EQF level 4 qualification from school or college in either vocational or academic subject areas.

Entry is allowed at the discretion of the college guided by the awarding body.

Assessment of learning outcomes

Information not available

Diplomas/certificates provided

A wide variety of qualifications exist at this level ([195]See also Main vocational qualifications offered in the UK under Section 6. VET within education and training system)

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales:

  • BTEC Higher Certificates and Diplomas;
  • NVQs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In Scotland:

  • National Progression Awards;
  • National Certificates;
  • Professional Development Awards;
  • SVQs in Scotland.
Examples of qualifications

Quantity surveyor, education administrator, paramedic.

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

There are good articulation options for progression from higher VET programmes at RQF levels 4 and 5/SCQF levels 7 and 8 (EQF level 5), such as Higher National Certificates (HNC) and Higher National Diplomas (HND), to the second or third year of a Bachelor degree in a related field in the UK.

However, admission and transfer arrangements are made at the discretion of the admitting institution, though in Scotland the Government and Scottish Funding Council (SFC) have provided strategic funding to help build more substantive and sustained articulation arrangements through the use of regional ‘articulation hubs’. This funding and the hubs are no longer in place, but universities and tertiary colleges have built into their Outcome Agreements with the SFC ([196]http://www.sfc.ac.uk/funding/outcome-agreements/outcome-agreements.aspx) the requirement to sustain and ideally increase such articulation activity. This is also supported by recommendations from the Commission on Widening Access set up by the Scottish Government, with a Commissioner on Fair Access in place to help drive such activity.

Destination of graduates

Information not available

Awards through validation of prior learning

Information not available

General education subjects

Information not available

Key competences

Information not available

Application of learning outcomes approach

Y

Qualifications frameworks in England and the devolved administrations ([197]Credit and qualifications framework in Wales (CQFW), Scottish credit and qualifications framework (SCQF) and the previous qualifications and credit framework in Northern Ireland (QCF).) describe levels, qualifications and units in terms of learning outcomes as well as credits and notional learning hours.

Qualifications included in the RQF (Regulated qualifications framework in England and N. Ireland in place since 2015) have, from 31 December 2017, been described in terms of total qualification time ([198]Ofqual (2015).
Total qualification time criteria [accessed 22.2.2017].
) as credit allocation to units and qualifications is not compulsory within the RQF.

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are competence-based, practically oriented qualifications that are based on National Occupational Standards and often assessed in the work place. While NVQs sit within the RQF and CQFW, SVQs sit within the SCQF.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

EQF 7

Higher apprenticeships

ISCED 767

Higher apprenticeships leading to EQF level 7, ISCED 767. Higher apprenticeships at Doctoral level have not yet been developed.
EQF level
7
ISCED-P 2011 level

767

Usual entry grade

Information not available

Usual completion grade

Information not available

Usual entry age

Information not available

Usual completion age

Information not available

Length of a programme (years)

1 (up to) ([199]Programmes at this level usually take between six months to a year to complete.)

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

N

Education is compulsory up to 16 (18 in England).

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

Is it initial VET?

Y

Is it continuing VET?

Y

Is it offered free of charge?

Information not available

Is it available for adults?

Y

Learners in these programmes are over 18.

ECVET or other credits
Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

Apprenticeship programmes in the UK require apprentices to be trained both

  • on-the-job; and
  • off-the-job.

Off-the-job learning may be organised

  • as one or two days per week at an education and training provider; or
  • through longer, less frequent blocks of learning;
  • evening classes are also offered.

Learning options

Higher Apprenticeships in England, and Wales are offered in the shape of apprenticeship frameworks ([201]Which include a work contract, a technical/occupational qualification within the RQF/CQFW and other general subjects relevant to the occupational profile.).

Higher level apprenticeships frameworks in Northern Ireland consist of an academic element, which contains a strong work-based element, combined with on-the-job training, and may include technical work-based qualifications as appropriate.

In England, new apprenticeship standards developed by groups of employers from 2017/18 are currently run in parallel with the frameworks and comprise on-the-job and off-the-job training and learning, linked to specific occupations.

Scottish apprenticeships include a work contract. Technical and Professional apprenticeships include career skills and may include work-based or alternative competence based qualifications or professional qualifications as the mandatory qualification.

Main providers

Colleges and higher education institutions

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

Work-based learning and in-company training are included in programmes of this type, but the amount depends on the programme.

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)
  • on-the-job apprenticeship training;
Main target groups

Higher apprenticeships are for adult learners, who may already be employed prior to starting the apprenticeship programme.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Degree apprenticeships were introduced to create a different pathway to obtaining university degrees. Whilst academic ability, including grades and numerical and reasoning skills are considered by the university or college, candidates are also interviewed for a job with a company (unless they are already employed with the company). Both employers and universities must be satisfied the applicant meets their respective requirements. There may therefore be a joint recruitment process.

Assessment of learning outcomes

Assessment of Higher apprenticeships (see Section 18. LEARNING FORM): Higher Apprenticeships have end-point assessment, where apprenticeships are assessment on both their academic learning and occupational competences.

Diplomas/certificates provided

Apprenticeships at this level are called:

  • higher apprenticeships;
  • higher level apprenticeships;
  • graduate apprenticeships;
  • degree apprenticeships; and
  • professional apprenticeships.

An apprenticeship certificate may be awarded along with a Master’s degree.

Examples of qualifications

Information not available

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Higher apprenticeships at Doctoral level have not yet been developed.

Possession of a Master’s degree awarded from a university with degree awarding powers in the UK allows progression to Doctoral study in the UK at institutional discretion.

Destination of graduates

Information not available

Awards through validation of prior learning

Information not available

General education subjects

Information not available

Key competences

Y

Technical and professional apprenticeships include career skills.

Application of learning outcomes approach

Information not available

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

EQF 7

Higher VET

ISCED 767

Higher VET leading to EQF 7, ISCED 767
EQF level
7
ISCED-P 2011 level

767

Usual entry grade

Information not available

Usual completion grade

Information not available

Usual entry age

Information not available

Usual completion age

Information not available

Length of a programme (years)

1 (up to) ([202]Programmes at this level usually take between six months to a year to complete.)

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

N

Education is compulsory up to 16 (18 in England).

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

Is it initial VET?

Y

Is it continuing VET?

Y

The programme is also available in adult education/continuing training.

Is it available for adults?

Y

Learners in these programmes are over 18.

  
ECVET or other credits
Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)
  • Programmes are often studied part-time by employed people, but are also available in college settings that include work experience.
  • Courses are often also offered through distance learning.
Main providers

Colleges and higher education institutions

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

Work-based learning and in-company training are included in programmes of this type, but the amount depends on the programme.

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)
  • workshops;
  • in-company training.

Many students will be in employment whilst studying.

Main target groups

These study programmes are, in the main, completed by employees looking for career progression and to improve professional practice.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Entry to these non-degree higher education qualifications are usually based on possession of a university degree or other non-degree higher qualifications. Work experience in a related subject is often also taken into consideration.

Entry is allowed at the discretion of the college guided by the awarding body.

Assessment of learning outcomes

Information not available

Diplomas/certificates provided

A wide variety of qualifications exist at this level, including BTEC Professional qualifications, such as Extended Level 7 Diplomas along with NVQs (National vocational qualifications) and SVQs (Scottish vocational qualifications).

Examples of qualifications

Information not available

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

These study programmes are, in the main, completed by employees looking for career progression and to improve professional practice.

Destination of graduates

Information not available

General education subjects

General subjects are not usually included as the programmes are narrowly specialised to meet the skills demands of a specific profession.

Key competences

Information not available

Application of learning outcomes approach

Y

Qualifications frameworks in England and the devolved administrations ([204]Credit and qualifications framework in Wales (CQFW), Scottish credit and qualifications framework (SCQF) and the previous qualifications and credit framework in Northern Ireland (QCF).) describe levels, qualifications and units in terms of learning outcomes as well as credits and notional learning hours.

Qualifications included in the RQF (Regulated qualifications framework in England and N. Ireland in place since 2015) have, from 31 December 2017, been described in terms of total qualification time ([205]Ofqual (2015).
Total qualification time criteria [accessed 22.2.2017].
) as credit allocation to units and qualifications is not compulsory within the RQF.

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are competence-based, practically oriented qualifications that are based on National Occupational Standards and often assessed in the work place. While NVQs sit within the RQF and CQFW, SVQs sit within the SCQF.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

1 605 000 students in England in the 16-18 age group participated in education and training at various levels in 2017, which accounts for 86% of all young people in this age group.

 

Participation of 16-18 year olds in education and training in England in 2017 (%)

Source: Department for Education (2018). Participation in education, training and employment: 2017 [accessed 15.11.2018].

50 500 students in Scotland in the 16-19 age group participated in education at various levels in 2018, which accounts for 71% of all young people in this age group. Apprenticeship and non-formal and informal training are not included in this number.

Participation of 16-19 year olds in education and training in Scotland in 2018 (%)

Source: Skills Development Scotland (2018). Annual Participation Measure for 16 – 19 year olds in Scotland 2018 [accessed 15.11.2018].

 

Post-secondary

Programme Types
Not available

Secondary

Click on a programme type to see more info
Programme Types

EQF 2/3

Apprenticeship,

ISCED 351,352

Apprenticeship programmes leading to EQF level 2 and 3, ISCED 351/352
EQF level
2/3
ISCED-P 2011 level

351, 352

Usual entry grade

10 (also available to adults)

Usual completion grade

11

Usual entry age

14

Usual completion age

16

Length of a programme (years)

2 (up to) ([128]Apprenticeships at this level usually last one year, but the duration can be longer depending on the programme, employment contract and the needs of the apprentice. There is a requirement for apprenticeships to last at least 12 months in England.)

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

Y

Education is compulsory up to 16 (18 in England).

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

([130]Also available in adult education/continuing training.)

Is it initial VET?

Y

Is it continuing VET?

Y

Is it offered free of charge?

Y

([131]Apprentices are employees. For learners up to 18, the programme is 100% government funded. From age 19, 50% is funded, but the remainder is paid by the company, therefore it is free of charge to the learner/apprentice.)

Is it available for adults?

Y

Apprentices may complete this type of study at age 16, but many apprentices are adult learners who may already be employed prior to starting the apprenticeship programme.

ECVET or other credits
Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

Apprenticeship programmes in the UK require apprentices to be trained both

  • on-the-job; and
  • off-the-job.

Off-the-job learning may be organised

  • as one or two days per week at an education and training provider; or
  • through longer, less frequent blocks of learning;
  • evening classes are also offered.

Learning options

Apprenticeships at this level in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are offered in the shape of apprenticeship frameworks ([132]Which include a work contract, a formal technical/occupational qualification and Functional Skills/Essential Skills/Key Skills/GCSEs in English, mathematics and other general subjects relevant to the occupational profile.).

In England ([133]New apprenticeship standards are being developed by employer-led consortia (Trailblazer groups); see Section: VET governance/apprenticeships in England.), new apprenticeship standards are currently run in parallel with the frameworks and comprise on-the-job and off-the-job training and learning, linked to specific occupations, and apprentices are assessed by an independent assessor from industry or a separate training provider to the one the student attended at the end of the training.

Scottish Modern apprenticeships include a work contract and are required to include as mandatory components SVQs ([134]Scottish vocational qualification.) or alternative competence based qualifications and Work Place Core Skills that comprise ICT, problem solving, numeracy, communication and working with others.

Main providers

Colleges, independent training providers.

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

<=80%

The programme is delivered as apprenticeship (minimum 20% - one day a week for a full time apprentice- is ‘off the job’ training)

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)
  • on-the-job apprenticeship training
Main target groups

Programmes are available for young people and also for adults. Apprenticeship programmes at this level have different target groups depending on the programme:

Traineeships in England are designed to provide young, unemployed people who possess little work experience and low qualifications with skills and work experience in preparation for apprenticeships and employment. The core content comprises literacy and numeracy, work preparation training and a work placement. This programme is tailored to individual candidates’ needs and should be completed in less than six months.

Traineeships are being introduced in Northern Ireland at EQF level 3 and will allow progression to RQF level 3 (EQF 4) apprenticeships. A baccalaureate-style curriculum is being created, which will include work-based learning and allow students to continue into an apprenticeship or further education or be skilled enough to find sustained employment.

Scottish learning providers offer additional skills and employability training opportunities, through the Employability Fund that prepare young people for Modern Apprenticeships or employment. Training is targeted towards seven key sectors and programmes include employability skills, basic occupational skills, employer experience and lead to a recognised vocational qualification or certification ([135]Qualifications vary depending on the needs of the person and the local area, more information at:
https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/what-we-do/employability-skills/employability-fund/
).

Traineeships are available for 16-18 year olds in Wales and provide needs-based training to help learners progress to further learning, apprenticeships and employment through provision at three levels.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Apprentices may complete this type of study at age 16, but many apprentices are adult learners who may already be employed prior to starting the apprenticeship programme.

Entrance requirements to apprenticeships vary depending on the occupational area and the level of the apprenticeship framework/standard. Competition for some apprenticeship places is fierce and good secondary qualifications at EQF level 3 in English and mathematics are sometimes necessary.

Assessment of learning outcomes

Qualifications offered within Scottish and Welsh apprenticeship frameworks and in the apprenticeship frameworks that include QCF qualifications in England and Northern Ireland ([136]Level descriptors have been revised, but the same eight framework levels remain from the previous qualifications and credit framework (QCF), and the existing qualifications continue to be offered until they are withdrawn by the awarding organisation.), are unit-based which enables credit transfer.

The new apprenticeship standards in England are; however, not unit-based and are assessed through a final examination, which makes the process of credit transfer more dependent on the discretion of the learning provider.

Diplomas/certificates provided

Apprenticeships at this level are called:

  • intermediate apprenticeships (RQF);
  • foundation apprenticeships (CQFW); and
  • modern apprenticeships (SCQF).

An apprenticeship certificate ([137]Attesting that the qualification was delivered as part of an apprenticeship programme) is awarded along with a vocational qualification, such as BTEC First Awards, Certificates and Diplomas, NVQs and SVQs ([138]National vocational qualifications and Scottish vocational qualifications.).

Examples of qualifications

Bricklayer, motor vehicle technician and legal secretary

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Apprenticeship programmes and VET qualifications at this level usually provide entry to the labour market and whilst apprenticeships are linked to a profession ([139]Such as bricklayer, motor vehicle technician and legal secretary.), not all qualifications are linked to an occupational standard.

Some apprenticeships at this level provide the first step towards a more narrowly defined apprenticeship or training programme at a more advanced level.

Destination of graduates

Information not available

Awards through validation of prior learning

Information not available

General education subjects

Y

Apprenticeships in England ([140]New apprenticeship standards are being developed by employer-led consortia (Trailblazer groups); see Section: VET governance/apprenticeships in England.), Wales and Northern Ireland are offered in the shape of apprenticeship frameworks which include a work contract, a formal technical/occupational qualification and

  • Functional Skills/Essential Skills/Key Skills/GCSEs in English, mathematics; and
  • other general subjects relevant to the occupational profile.

Traineeships in England:

  • the core content comprises literacy and numeracy ([141]The programme is tailored to individual candidates’ needs and should be completed in less than six months.).
Key competences

Scottish learning providers offer additional skills and employability training opportunities, through the Employability Fund that prepare young people for Modern Apprenticeships or employment. Training is targeted towards seven key sectors ([142]Programmes lead to a recognised vocational qualification or certification. Qualifications vary depending on the needs of the person and the local area, more information at:
https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/what-we-do/employability-skills/employability-fund/
) and programmes include

  • employability skills ([143]As well as basic occupational skills, and employer experience.).

Scottish Modern apprenticeships include ([144]In addition to a work contract and SVQs Scottish vocational qualifications as mandatory components, or alternative competence based qualifications and employability skills.):

  • work place core skills that comprise ICT, problem solving, numeracy, communication and working with others.
Application of learning outcomes approach

Information not available

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

EQF 3

School-based VET,

ISCED 351, 352

School-based VET programmes leading to EQF level 3, ISCED 351, 352
EQF level
3
ISCED-P 2011 level

351, 352

Usual entry grade

10

Usual completion grade

12

Usual entry age

14

Usual completion age

16

Length of a programme (years)

2 (up to) ([145]Although short courses and individual units of study can be completed, most full-time VET programmes at this level take between one and two years to complete. In Scotland National Certificates and National Progression Awards are National Qualifications Group Awards in which students accumulate credits towards distinctive group awards. Programmes can take longer when studied part-time.)

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

Y

Education is compulsory up to 16 (18 in England).

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

([147]Also available in adult education/continuing training.)

Is it initial VET?

Y

Is it continuing VET?

Y

Is it offered free of charge?

Y

For learners up to 18, VET is funded by government agencies.

Is it available for adults?

Y

The programme is also available in adult education/continuing training.

ECVET or other credits
Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

VET learning options include:

  • full-time school-based learning;
  • part-time in adult/continuing education;
  • school-based programme in conjunction with an apprenticeship.

VET learning options per qualification type:

  • BTEC Firsts (RQF level 2 qualifications) ([148]BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) qualifications are offered in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. For a detailed description of the BTEC Firsts, see: Pearson.
    About BTEC Firsts [accessed 15.2.2018].
    ) are often studied part-time and in conjunction with other qualifications;
  • National vocational qualifications (NVQs) and Scottish vocational qualifications (SVQs) are often taken by employed people or in conjunction with an apprenticeships; also available in college settings;

GCSEs ([149]General certificate of secondary education.) in vocational subjects can normally be studied alongside general academic subjects.

Main providers

Colleges, secondary schools

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

Information not available

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)
  • school workshops;
  • in-company training;
  • on-the-job apprenticeship training ([150]All the options listed may all be included in programmes of this type, but the inclusion and amount depends on the programme.).
Main target groups

VET programmes may be taken as:

  • alternatives to compulsory general academic study at secondary schools; or
  • as stand-alone qualifications completed after moving sideways from secondary school to starting VET at a college;
  • adults may also start VET at this level.

In Scotland:

  • National Certificates are primarily aimed at people in full-time education and National Progression Awards are usually shorter, more flexible programmes for employees or people returning to work, though are also taken as part of a wider curriculum of qualifications within the school or college setting.
Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

No specific entry requirements apply.

Students may complete this type of VET at age 15/16. Age 16 marks the end of the compulsory schooling age, although the age to which individuals are required to take part in education or training, either part-time or full-time, was raised in England to 18 in 2015 in a bid to improve the skill levels of the work force.

Assessment of learning outcomes

Information not available

Diplomas/certificates provided

A wide variety of qualifications exist at this level (see also Section VET governance):

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales:

  • BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) Awards, Certificates and Diplomas ([151]See also Pearson:
    What is a BTEC? [accessed 15.2.2019].
    );
  • the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in vocational subjects.

In Scotland:

  • NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) ([152]National qualifications are offered in both vocational and academic subjects.);
  • SVQs (Scottish Vocational Qualifications);
  • National Certificates (vocational qualifications);
  • NPAs (National Progression Awards) (vocational qualifications).
Examples of qualifications

Heating and ventilation engineer, motor vehicle technician, care worker ([153]Qualifications not all linked to an occupational standard.)

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Qualifications at this level may provide entry to the labour market in professions such as heating and ventilation engineer, motor vehicle technician or care worker, but are not all linked to an occupational standard and are mostly intended to prepare students for further vocational specialisation at a higher level.

In Scotland, National Progression Awards are National Qualifications Group Awards that allow entry to more advanced study and employment.

Destination of graduates

Information not available

Awards through validation of prior learning

Information not available

General education subjects

Y

GCSEs in vocational subjects can normally be studied alongside general academic subjects.

Key competences

Information not available

Application of learning outcomes approach

Y

Qualifications frameworks in England and the devolved administrations ([154]Credit and qualifications framework in Wales (CQFW), Scottish credit and qualifications framework (SCQF) and the previous qualifications and credit framework in Northern Ireland (QCF).) describe levels, qualifications and units in terms of learning outcomes as well as credits and notional learning hours.

Qualifications included in the RQF (Regulated qualifications framework in England and N. Ireland in place since 2015) have, from 31 December 2017, been described in terms of total qualification time ([155]Ofqual (2015).
Total qualification time criteria [accessed 22.2.2017].
) as credit allocation to units and qualifications is not compulsory within the RQF.

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are competence-based, practically oriented qualifications that are based on National Occupational Standards and often assessed in the work place. While NVQs sit within the RQF and CQFW, SVQs sit within the SCQF.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

EQF 4

Apprenticeship

ISCED 354

Apprenticeship programmes leading to EQF level 4, ISCED 354.
EQF level
4
ISCED-P 2011 level

354

Usual entry grade

12 (also available to adults)

Usual completion grade

13

Usual entry age

17

Usual completion age

18

Length of a programme (years)

2 (up to) ([156]Apprenticeships at this level usually last one year, but the duration can be longer depending on the programme, employment contract and the needs of the apprentice. There is a requirement for apprenticeships to last at least 12 months in England.)

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

Y

(in England)

N

(in N. Ireland, Wales and Scotland)

Education is compulsory up to 16 (18 in England)

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

Is it initial VET?

Y

Is it continuing VET?

Y

Is it offered free of charge?

Y

([158]Apprentices are employees. For learners up to 18, the programme is 100% government funded. From age 19, 50% is funded, but the remainder is paid by the company, therefore it is free of charge to the learner/apprentice.)

Is it available for adults?

Y

Apprentices may complete this type of study at age 18, but many apprentices are adult learners who may already be employed prior to starting the apprenticeship programme.

ECVET or other credits
Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

Apprenticeship programmes in the UK require apprentices to be trained both

  • on-the-job; and
  • off-the-job.

Off-the-job learning may be organised:

  • as one or two days per week at an education and training provider; or
  • through longer, less frequent blocks of learning;
  • evening classes are also offered.

Learning options

Apprenticeships in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are offered in the shape of apprenticeship frameworks ([159]Which include a work contract, a formal technical/occupational qualification and Functional Skills/Essential Skills/Key Skills/GCSEs in English, mathematics and other general subjects relevant to the occupational profile.)

In England ([160]New apprenticeship standards are being developed by employer-led consortia (Trailblazer groups); see Section: VET governance/apprenticeships in England.), new apprenticeship standards are currently run in parallel with the frameworks and comprise on-the-job and off-the-job training and learning, linked to specific occupations, and apprentices are assessed by an independent assessor from industry or a separate training provider to the one the student attended at the end of the training.

Scottish Modern apprenticeships include a work contract and are required to include as mandatory components SVQs- Scottish Vocational Qualification or alternative competence based qualifications and Work Place Core Skills that comprise ICT, problem solving, numeracy, communication and working with others.

Scottish young people on Foundation apprenticeships

  • are not employed;
  • spend time in school and on work placements (approximately one day per week);
  • Successful students may transfer to a modern apprenticeship on completion.
Main providers

Colleges, independent training providers

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

<=80%

The programme is delivered as apprenticeship (minimum 20% - one day a week for a full time apprentice- is ‘off the job’ training) Information not available.

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)
  • on-the-job apprenticeship training
Main target groups

Programmes are available for young people and also for adults.

Apprentices may complete this type of study at age 18, but many apprentices are adult learners who may already be employed prior to starting the apprenticeship programme.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Most pupils take examinations for the GCSE ([161]General certificate of secondary education.) at age 15/16 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The grades achieved here play an important role in determining the future study opportunities within VET.

In Scotland, National 4 and 5 qualifications (EQF 2/3), normally also taken at age 15/16, are the most common entrance qualifications to VET.

Entrance requirements to apprenticeships vary depending on the occupational area and the level of the apprenticeship framework/standard. Competition for some apprenticeship places is fierce and good secondary qualifications at EQF level 3 in English and mathematics are sometimes necessary.

Aligned with the Scottish Government’s policy agenda of Developing the Young Workforce, Foundation apprenticeships have been created to offer school pupils (at EQF level 4) the chance to undertake some components of a Modern apprenticeship in Scotland whilst still in school studying other subjects like National 5s and Highers. These apprenticeships are linked to key sectors of the Scottish economy, so young people are getting industry experience which will help them kick-start a successful career in their chosen field.

Assessment of learning outcomes

Qualifications offered within Scottish and Welsh apprenticeship frameworks and in the apprenticeship frameworks that include QCF qualifications in England and Northern Ireland ([162]Level descriptors have been revised, but the same eight framework levels remain from the previous qualifications and credit framework (QCF), and the existing qualifications continue to be offered until they are withdrawn by the awarding organisation.), are unit-based which enables credit transfer.

The new apprenticeship standards in England are; however, not unit-based and are assessed through a final examination, which makes the process of credit transfer more dependent on the discretion of the learning provider.

Diplomas/certificates provided

Apprenticeships at this level are called:

  • Level 3 apprenticeships;
  • advanced apprenticeships; and
  • in Scotland: foundation apprenticeships and modern apprenticeships.

An apprenticeship certificate ([163]Attesting that the qualification was delivered as part of an apprenticeship programme.) is awarded along with a vocational qualification, such as BTEC National Awards, Certificates and Diplomas along with NVQs and SVQs ([164]National vocational qualifications and Scottish vocational qualifications.).

Examples of qualifications

Electrician, veterinary nurse and dental technician.

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Apprenticeship programmes and VET qualifications at this level are designed to provide entry to the labour market and are linked to a profession.

Progression opportunities to higher apprenticeship or training programmes at a more advanced level also exist.

Entry to first level university degree study is also possible depending on the qualifications achieved.

Destination of graduates

Information not available

Awards through validation of prior learning

Information not available

General education subjects

Y

Apprenticeships in England ([165]New apprenticeship standards are being developed by employer-led consortia (Trailblazer groups); see Section: VET governance/apprenticeships in England), Wales and Northern Ireland are offered in the shape of apprenticeship frameworks which include a work contract, a formal technical/occupational qualification and

  • Functional Skills/Essential Skills/Key Skills/GCSEs in English, mathematics; and
  • other general subjects relevant to the occupational profile.
Key competences

Scottish learning providers offer additional skills and employability training opportunities, through the Employability Fund that prepare young people for Modern Apprenticeships or employment. Training is targeted towards seven key sectors ([166]Programmes lead to a recognised vocational qualification or certification. Qualifications vary depending on the needs of the person and the local area, more information at:
https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/what-we-do/employability-skills/employability-fund/
) and programmes include

  • employability skills ([167]As well as basic occupational skills, and employer experience.).

Scottish Modern apprenticeships include ([168]In addition to a work contract and SVQs Scottish vocational qualifications as mandatory components, or alternative competence based qualifications and employability skills.)

  • work place core skills that comprise ICT, problem solving, numeracy, communication and working with others.
Application of learning outcomes approach

Information not available

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

EQF 4

College-based VET

ISCED 351, 354

College-based VET programmes leading to EQF level 4, ISCED 351, 354
EQF level
4
ISCED-P 2011 level

351, 354

Usual entry grade

12

Usual completion grade

13

Usual entry age

17

Usual completion age

18

Length of a programme (years)

2 (up to) ([169]Although short courses and individual units of study can be completed, most full-time VET programmes at this level take between one and two years to complete. Programmes can take longer when studied part-time.)

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

Y

(in England)

N

(in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland)

Education is compulsory up to 16 (18 in England).

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

Is it initial VET?

Y

Is it continuing VET?

Y

Is it offered free of charge?

Y

For learners up to 18, VET is funded by government

agencies.

Is it available for adults?

Y

The programme is also available in adult education/continuing training.

ECVET or other credits
Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

VET learning options include:

  • full-time school-based learning;
  • part-time in adult/continuing education;
  • school-based programme in conjunction with an apprenticeship.

VET learning options per qualification type:

  • BTEC Nationals are often studied part-time and in conjunction with other qualifications;
  • SVQs/NVQs ([171]Scottish vocational qualifications / national vocational qualifications.) are often taken by employed people or in conjunction with an apprenticeship, but are also available in college settings.

VET learning options

In England, 16-19 year olds are expected to follow a 16-19 study programme consisting of a main vocational qualification (or general academic qualification) and including work-related learning as well as English and mathematics, unless the required level has already been achieved in these two subjects.

Qualifications taught in England at RQF level 3 may be categorised as either technical or applied general qualifications. Qualifications receiving sufficient endorsements from employers and trade and professional associations are categorised as Tech levels (Technical level qualifications as a mark of quality and relevance to the labour market. Applied general qualifications provide a broader study of a vocational area, and need the public backing of three universities to achieve the quality mark. Students completing a study programme started in 2014 or later that includes one of the Tech levels, a level 3 core mathematics qualification and an extended project will achieve the Technical Baccalaureate ([172]See also Department for Education (2014).
The Technical Baccalaureate Performance Table Measure
).

The Welsh Baccalaureate contains academic and vocational qualifications alongside a wider programme of learning that includes an individual project and three challenges that enable young people to develop critical skills including problem solving and creativity. This programme comprises literacy, numeracy, digital literacy, critical thinking and problem-solving, planning and organisation, creativity and innovation and personal effectiveness, as well as general academic and/or vocational qualifications in addition to the skills challenges that require learners to demonstrate research skills, entrepreneurship and participate in community activities.

Main providers

Colleges, secondary schools

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

Information not available

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)
  • school workshops;
  • in-company training;
  • on-the-job apprenticeship training ([173]All the options listed may all be included in programmes of this type, but the inclusion and amount depends on the programme. BTEC and NVQ/SVQ programmes combine theoretical and practical vocational education and can form part of an apprenticeship programme.).
Main target groups

VET programmes may be taken as:

  • alternatives to compulsory general academic study at secondary schools; or
  • as stand-alone qualifications completed after moving sideways from secondary school to starting VET at a college;
  • adults may also start VET at this level.

Target groups and education strategies in place:

The ‘Opportunities for All’ pledge offers a guaranteed place in education or training for 16-19 year olds in Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, a guarantee of training towards level 1-3 qualifications (EQF levels 2-4) is offered through the Training for Success programme for all unemployed 16-17 year old school leavers with extended eligibility for those with a disability and from an in-care background.

The Northern Ireland Strategy for Youth Training includes a policy commitment for the future system that all 16–24 year olds who require training at level 2 (EQF 3) will have the opportunity to participate.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Most pupils take examinations for the GCSE ([174]General certificate of secondary education.) at age 15/16 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The grades achieved here play an important role in determining the future study opportunities within VET.

In Scotland, National 4 and 5 qualifications (EQF levels 2/3), normally also taken at age 15/16, are the most common entrance qualifications to VET.

Students may complete this type of VET at age 18/19. Age 16 marks the end of the compulsory schooling age, although the age to which individuals are required to take part in education or training, either part-time or full-time, was raised in England to 18 in 2015.

Assessment of learning outcomes

Information not available

Diplomas/certificates provided

A wide variety of qualifications exist at this level (see also section VET governance):

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales:

  • BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) National Awards, Certificates and Diplomas;
  • NVQs (National vocational qualifications);
  • applied subjects at upper secondary level are also available in the General Certificate of Education Advanced level (GCE A level) and Advanced Subsidiary programmes and the Welsh Baccalaureate.

In Scotland:

  • National Progression Awards;
  • National Certificates;
  • Professional Development Awards;
  • SVQs (Scottish vocational qualifications);
  • National Qualifications, such as Higher and Advanced Higher are offered primarily in academic, but also some vocational subjects.
Examples of qualifications

Electrician, veterinary nurse, dental technician.

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Candidates holding RQF level 3 ([175]RQF levels are still to be referenced to EQF levels.
- ‘An update on developments in England and Northern Ireland was presented in the EQF advisory group in February 2019, and an updated referencing report to reference the RQF and FHEQ to the EQF is planned to be presented in June 2019’. Source: Cedefop (2019). European inventory on NQF (2018) UK- England and N. Ireland, p.16.
https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_england_and_northern_ireland_-_european_inventory_on_nqf_2018.pdf
- ‘An updated referencing report has been prepared by the SCQF Partnership and presented to the EQF advisory group in December 2018.’ Source:
https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_scotland_-_european_inventory_on_nqf_2018.pdf p. 14.
- ‘Wales is currently in the process of updating the referencing report due to the changes in the level descriptors, the creation of Qualification Wales and the changes to quality assurance in higher education. This report will be presented to the EQF advisory group in June 2019.’ Source:
https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_wales_-_european_inventory_on_nqf_2018.pdf p. 15.
) or SCQF level 6 vocational qualifications (EQF level 4) may be allowed access to selected first cycle university programmes at institutional discretion.

The Curriculum for Excellence ([176]See also:
https://www.gov.scot/policies/schools/school-curriculum/
) in Scotland creates opportunities for students to combine a wider range of qualification types, which means that a larger variety of secondary qualifications are used to apply for tertiary education.

Vocational RQF qualifications at level 3 that are classified as Applied General qualifications are designed to provide a clear route from vocational education to higher education in England.

The majority of young university entrants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland hold general academic A level (RQF/CQFW level 3) ([177]CQFW level 3 are referenced to EQF level 4, RQF levels are still to be referenced to EQF levels.) qualifications ([178]RQF levels are still to be referenced to EQF levels.
- ‘An update on developments in England and Northern Ireland was presented in the EQF advisory group in February 2019, and an updated referencing report to reference the RQF and FHEQ to the EQF is planned to be presented in June 2019’. Source: Cedefop (2019). European inventory on NQF (2018) UK- England and N. Ireland, p.16.
https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_england_and_northern_ireland_-_european_inventory_on_nqf_2018.pdf
- ‘An updated referencing report has been prepared by the SCQF Partnership and presented to the EQF advisory group in December 2018.’ Source:
https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_scotland_-_european_inventory_on_nqf_2018.pdf p. 14.
- ‘Wales is currently in the process of updating the referencing report due to the changes in the level descriptors, the creation of Qualification Wales and the changes to quality assurance in higher education. This report will be presented to the EQF advisory group in June 2019.’ Source:
https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_wales_-_european_inventory_on_nqf_2018.pdf p. 15.
), but recent years have seen a steady rise in applicants being accepted with only vocational qualifications and a mixture of academic and vocational qualifications ([179]UCAS (2015).
End of cycle report 2015 [accessed 10.1.2019].
).

In Scotland, the majority of young university entrants will hold Scottish Higher qualifications (SCQF level 6 / EQF level 4). However, the final report of the Commission on Widening Access in 2016 recommended that the admissions processes of post-16 institutions recognise alternative pathways to higher education and do not unnecessarily disadvantage those who choose them, and that by 2018 a Framework for Fair Access should be published ([180]Scottish Government (2016b).
The final report of the Commission on Widening Access [accessed 15.11.2018].
). This was published in May 2019 ([181]Scottish Government (2019).
Fair access framework. [accessed 4.6.2019].
).

Destination of graduates

Information not available

Awards through validation of prior learning

Information not available

General education subjects

Y

([182]BTEC and NVQs do not include general subjects.) ([183]See more on the study programmes curriculum under Section: Assessment of learning outcomes, above.)

In England, 16-19 study programmes include English and mathematics, unless the required level has already been achieved in these two subjects.

In England, RQF level 3 Tech level (quality mark) qualifications include level 3 core mathematics.

The Welsh Baccalaureate includes general academic qualifications.

Key competences

The Welsh Baccalaureate comprises:

  • literacy,
  • numeracy,
  • digital literacy,
  • critical thinking and problem-solving,
  • planning and organisation,
  • creativity and innovation,
  • personal effectiveness, and
  • entrepreneurship.
Application of learning outcomes approach

Y

Qualifications frameworks in England and the devolved administrations ([184]Credit and qualifications framework in Wales (CQFW), Scottish credit and qualifications framework (SCQF) and the previous qualifications and credit framework in Northern Ireland (QCF).) describe levels, qualifications and units in terms of learning outcomes as well as credits and notional learning hours.

Qualifications included in the RQF (Regulated qualifications framework in England and N. Ireland in place since 2015) have, from 31 December 2017, been described in terms of total qualification time ([185]Ofqual (2015).
Total qualification time criteria [accessed 22.2.2017].
) as credit allocation to units and qualifications is not compulsory within the RQF.

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are competence-based, practically oriented qualifications that are based on National Occupational Standards and often assessed in the work place. While NVQs sit within the RQF and CQFW, SVQs sit within the SCQF.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

VET available to adults (formal and non-formal)

Programme Types
Not available

General themes

VET in Ireland comprises the following main features:

  • most VET is offered by the State, although private providers also play a role;
  • there are four sectors within the education system: (primary, secondary, further education and training (FET) and higher education. VET occurs mostly within the FET sector, meaning that it is offered mostly at post-secondary level;
  • in 2016, a reform of the apprenticeship system led to the provision of apprenticeships within higher education. VET at tertiary level was introduced in 2016 in the form of apprenticeships;
  • vocational programmes are also offered for second chance education and training (in the form of vocational training for the unemployed).

Distinctive features ([1]As there’s no edition of a spotlight on vocational education and training in Ireland for 2017, distinctive features are provided by ReferNet Ireland.):

VET in Ireland is not usually offered within the second level system (neither lower secondary (NFQ 3, EQF 2, ISCED 244) nor upper secondary (NFQ 4/5, EQF3/4 ISCED 343/344). Therefore, most learners are aged at least 16 or over; since the majority of new entrants to VET have already completed upper secondary education, they tend to be at least 18 years of age.

Until the reform in 2016, almost all apprenticeships were in the construction and, to a lesser extent, engineering sectors. The number of occupations now available for apprenticeship training has since grown and includes areas such as ICT, finance and hospitality.

Employer consultation and labour market intelligence played a key role in informing the development of new VET programmes with a view to addressing identified skills needs, including occupations in short supply, in Ireland’s economy.

The attractiveness of VET: traditionally, the number of VET learners in Ireland has been small, which is due in part to the fact that the preference for many learners on leaving compulsory education is for higher education. While major policy documents (e.g. National Skills Strategy 2025 and the Further Education and Training Strategy, both published by the Department of Education and Skills) outline ambitions to address and increase the standing of VET in Ireland, such changes take time to implement as they often involve shifts in culture and values.

Participation in lifelong learning: although improving, the lifelong learning rate in Ireland (at 13%) remains lower than the EU 2020 target of 15%. Particular challenges, which are not unique to Ireland, include encouraging participation among older workers and those with low education attainment. Those with lower secondary education attainment or below, had a lifelong learning participation rate of 4%, compared to 26% for those with postgraduate qualifications (i.e. ISCED level 6/EQF 7-8). Similarly, those aged 55-64 had a participation rate of 9% compared to 19% for those aged 25-34.

New programmes in the FET system (not including apprenticeship) aim to attract learners into employment in low skill occupations/sectors and to engage in learning activities aimed at upskilling/reskilling (e.g. Skills to Advance programme), although the full impact of these new programmes has yet to be reflected in the data.

Data from VET in Ireland Spotlight (2017) ([2]As there’s no edition of a spotlight on vocational education and training in Ireland for 2017, information on main challenges and policy responses is provided by ReferNet Ireland.)

Population in 2018: 4 830 392 ([3]NB: Data for population as of 1 January. Eurostat table tps00001 [extracted 16.5.2019].)

It increased by 4.8% since 2013 ([4]NB: Data for population as of 1 January. Eurostat table tps00001 [extracted 16.5.2019].). This is due to an increase in inward migration, as well as a growth in the number of births in recent years (which was greater than the number of deaths).

As in many other EU countries, the population is ageing.

The old-age-dependency ratio is expected to increase from 20 in 2015 to 45 in 2060 ([5]Old-age-dependency ratio is defined as the ratio between the number of persons aged 65 and more over the number of working-age persons (15-64 ). The value is expressed per 100 persons of working age (15-64).).

 

Population forecast by age group and old-age-dependency ratio

Source: Eurostat, proj_15ndbims [extracted 16.5.2019].

 

The cohort of those aged 5 to 19 increased from 2012 to 2017 due mainly to an increase in the number of births in recent years. As many learners enter the VET system from the age of 18 onwards, it is likely that the increase in this cohort will impact on the number of upper secondary school completers entering the VET system, and increase the demand for places across all sectors of the education and training system, including VET.

Not applicable

In Ireland, 99% of enterprises are micro enterprises (fewer than 10 employees). However, in terms of the number of persons engaged, 27% are in micro enterprises, 22% are in small enterprises, 20% are in medium enterprises, and 32% are in large enterprises ([6]Central Statistics Office: business demography (latest data: 2016):
https://cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/bd/businessdemography2016/
).

The main economic sectors in terms of employment are:

  • wholesale and retail;
  • human health;
  • industry;
  • education;
  • accommodation and food;
  • professional activities, etc.;
  • construction;
  • agriculture;
  • public administration and defence;
  • transportation;
  • ICT;
  • administrative activities.

 

Employment by sector (000s), quarter 4 2017

Source: SLMRU (SOLAS) analysis of CSO data.

 

These sectors are not linked to VET qualifications.

The main sectors associated with VET qualifications are construction, industry, and more recently and to a lesser extent, ICT, transportation, accommodation and food (i.e. hospitality), and finance.

In terms of labour market regulation ([7]In terms of the FET sector as a whole (general and VET), 84% of employers have indicated that they are happy with the quality of FET graduates. Source: HEA; SOLAS; QQI (2019). Irish national employer survey: final report, January 2019.
https://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2019/01/21-01-19-J8961-Irish-National-Employer-Survey-Final-Report.pdf
), Ireland’s regulatory framework has more in common with other flexible labour markets such as those of the United Kingdom or Denmark than with labour markets such as France and Germany. There are comparatively few occupations for which a VET qualification is a prerequisite for employment (notable exceptions include electrician, gas installer). Based on a set of labour regulation indicators (e.g. hiring, working hours, redundancy rules and costs), Ireland was ranked in 2018 by the Lithuanian Free Market Institute (LFMI) ([8]Lithuanian Free Market Institute (2017). Employment flexibility index 2018: EU and OECD countries.
https://en.llri.lt/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Employment-Flexibility-Index-2018_-LFMI.pdf
) employment flexibility index as one of the most flexible labour markets in the EU. This is illustrated in a number of indicators, including, among others, the fact that in Ireland:

  • there are no restrictions on the duration of fixed-term contracts, except for minimum wage contracts;
  • there is no restriction on overtime, night work and work on a weekly holiday;
  • there are no restrictions on redundancy rules; although redundancy dismissals are allowed by law, there is a requirement to notify and consult a third party before dismissing a group of nine redundant employees.

Ireland however has a minimum statutory minimum wage.

Total unemployment ([9]Percentage of active population, 25 to 74 years old.) (2018): 4.7% (6% in EU-28); it decreased by 0.6 percentage points since 2008 ([10]Eurostat table une_rt_a [extracted 20.5.2019].).

 

Unemployment rate (aged 15-24 and 25-64) by education attainment level in 2008-18

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_urgaed [extracted 16.5.2019].

 

At 14%, those with post-secondary non-tertiary education attainment (where most VET graduates are classified) are one of the smallest groups in Ireland’s labour force, as the figure below demonstrates ([11]Source: CSO (QNHS) supplementary tables. In Ireland, there are two types of bachelor degree: an honours bachelor degree (NFQ 8) or an ordinary bachelor degree (NFQ 7). Both honours and ordinary bachelor degrees have been referenced to the European qualifications framework at EQF level 6.). Almost half (47%) of the labour force holds a tertiary (or third) level qualification (NFQ 6-10/EQF5-8, ISCED 544-864).

 

Ireland’s labour force (000s) by highest level of education

Source: CSO (QNHS) supplementary tables.

 

Employment rate of 20 to 34 year-old VET graduates increased from 69.0% in 2014 to 78.1% in 2018.

 

Employment rate of VET graduates (20 to 34 years old, ISCED levels 3 and 4)

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_24 [extracted 16.5.2019].

 

The increase (+9.1 pp) in employment of 20-34 year-old upper secondary/post-secondary graduates in 2014-18 was higher compared to the increase in employment of all 20-34 year-old graduates (+5.3 pp) in the same period in Ireland ([12]NB: Data based on ISCED 2011; breaks in time series. ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education. Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_24 [extracted 16.5.2019].).

Education is highly valued in Ireland. The share of population aged up to 64 with higher education (45.6%) is higher than in most EU member stated and above the EU-28 average. The share of those with a low qualification, or without a qualification, is 16.3%, placing Ireland almost in the middle of EU Member States in this category.

 

Population (aged 25 to 64) by highest education level attained in 2018

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011. Low reliability for ‘No response’ in Czechia, Iceland, Latvia, and Poland.
ISCED 0-2 = less than primary, primary and lower secondary education.
ISCED 3-4 = upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education.
ISCED 5-8 = tertiary education.
Source: Eurostat, lfsa_pgaed [extracted 16.5.2019].

 

Share of learners in VET by level in 2017

lower secondary

upper secondary

post-secondary

not applicable

10.3%

100%

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011.

Source: Eurostat, educ_uoe_enrs01, educ_uoe_enrs04 and educ_uoe_enrs07 [extracted 16.5.2019].

 

Share of initial VET learners from total learners at upper secondary level (ISCED level 3), 2017

NB: Data based on ISCED 2011.
Source: Eurostat, educ_uoe_enrs04 [extracted 16.5.2019].

 

Information not available

The share of early leavers from education and training has decreased from 11.8% in 2009 to 5% in 2018. This places Ireland below the EU-28 average of 10.6% and marks a success as this percentage is also below the national objective for 2020 (no more than 8%).

 

Early leavers from education and training in 2009-18

NB: Share of the population aged 18 to 24 with at most lower secondary education and not in further education or training; break in series.
Source: Eurostat, edat_lfse_14 [extracted 16.5.2019] and European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/info/2018-european-semester-national-reform-programmes-and-stability-convergence-programmes_en [accessed 14.11.2018].

 

Dropout rate from VET (%)

Information not available

Lifelong learning offers training opportunities for adults, including early leavers from education.

 

Participation in lifelong learning in 2014-18

NB: Share of adult population aged 25 to 64 participating in education and training; break in series.
Source: Eurostat, trng_lfse_01 [extracted 16.5.2019].

 

Participation in lifelong learning has increased since 2014 (7.0%). In 2018, it is above the EU-28 average by 1.4 percentage points (12.5% Ireland, 11.1% EU-28).

Information on VET learners, as distinct from other further education and training learners, is not available. However, the share of post-secondary non-tertiary learners in the population is slightly larger in the younger age cohorts.

 

Population (15+) by age group and education attainment level, quarter 3 2018.

Source: SLMRU analysis of labour force survey data.

 

The education and training system comprises:

  • primary education;
  • secondary education, divided into lower secondary education (EQF2) and upper secondary (EQF 3-4);
  • further education and training (FET) non-tertiary education;
  • tertiary education.

Primary education is compulsory from the age of 6 years, although the vast majority of pupils enrol between the ages of 4 and 5 years. It consists of an eight year cycle: junior infants, senior infants, and first to sixth classes. Most learners have completed primary education by the age of 12.

Secondary education usually lasts five to six years and is divided into lower secondary education (3 years) and upper secondary (2 years). Some pupils may also undertake the Transition Year Programme: a one-year programme that acts as a bridge between lower and upper secondary education.

Lower secondary education: the junior cycle is a generally oriented programme of approximately three years’ duration and leads to the Junior Certificate examination, which students usually take at the age of 15 or 16.

Upper secondary: the senior cycle (i.e. upper secondary education) takes two years and leads to the leaving certificate examination which students usually sit at the age of 17 or 18.

Further education and training in Ireland comprises post-secondary non-tertiary education, as well as second chance education/training. The sector is characterised by a high degree of diversity in terms of the type of programme, level and learner:

  • further education and training programmes can be general, vocational or mixed;
  • they lead to awards across several levels on the EQF (levels 1-5 on the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), or levels 1-6 on Ireland’s National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ));
  • target groups include young people who have recently completed upper secondary education, adult learners, early school leavers, the employed, the unemployed, asylum seekers, learners with special needs;
  • post leaving certificate (PLC) programmes are aimed primarily at those completing upper secondary education, but are also open to older learners; programmes are often general in nature, but also include VET programmes such as motor technology;
  • second chance learning opportunities within the further education and training sector.

Over a half of those who complete upper secondary school transfer directly to third level education on completing upper secondary education ([13]Department of Education and Skills: annual statistical reports 2016.
https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Statistics/Statistical-Reports/
). Students can opt for higher education in a university, institute of technology or college of education (EQF levels 5-6, ISCED levels 544-554, 665). There are also a small number of private, independent providers of tertiary (or third) level education (mostly business and related disciplines).

Undergraduate higher education courses are of various durations, ranging from two years for a higher certificate (NFQ 6; EQF 5, ISCED 665) to three/four years for an honours bachelor degree (NFQ 8; EQF 6; ISCED 666). Some programmes, such as medicine or architecture, require up to five years. Postgraduate programmes range from one year (e.g. taught masters (NFQ 9; EQF 7; ISCED 667)) to three years or more for doctoral programmes (NFQ 10; EQF 8; ISCED 864).

VET is provided primarily within the further education and training sector (comprising post-secondary non-tertiary and second chance education). However, since 2016, the apprenticeship system has been expanded and includes new programmes which are delivered not only within the further education and training sector, but also in tertiary level institutions. Graduates, however, have yet to emerge from these programmes.

Like the apprenticeship system, the traineeship system has undergone substantial change in recent years in Ireland. Traineeships, unlike apprenticeships, are not regulated by law (there is no occupation profile); they tend to be developed in response to local employers’ needs, and curriculum content may vary according to local demand. Traineeships must have a work-based learning component of at least 30%.

Most of the development of the traineeship system has been the result of recognising the need to develop the skills of the employed, as outlined in the national skills strategy. Consequently, while most traineeships programmes had previously been available only to the unemployed, they have, since 2017, also been open to school leavers and the employed. There are no age restrictions for trainees, and they are free of charge to participants. Some unemployed trainees may also receive a training allowance.

Specific skills training courses allow people who have lost their job to learn new job-related skills. The courses on offer vary from year to year with different levels of certification. The training content and occupational standards are based on the consultation process involving employers. Certification achieved on course completion ranges from levels 3-5 on the national framework of qualifications (or levels 2-4 on the EQF). The courses differ from traineeships in that they tend to be shorter (four to five months), with a shorter on-the-job phase; in addition, the employer does not play a role in recruitment.

Post leaving certificate courses are aimed at learners who have completed the leaving certificate examination at the end of upper secondary education. They are full-time courses which last between one and two years. These courses provide integrated general education, vocational training and work experience for young people; however, post leaving certificate courses are also an option for mature learners (in 2015, 47% of those enrolled on post leaving certificate programmes in 2015 were aged 21 or over). They provide, therefore, important lifelong learning opportunities for adult learners.

While some post leaving certificate courses are vocational in nature (e.g. training in beauty therapy, healthcare, security studies), others are general (e.g. general studies, art, design, etc.). Most post leaving certificate courses have a work experience component, although there is no prescribed minimum duration for most courses.

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) courses consist of a range of full-time courses (EQF 2-5, ISCED 353) designed to meet the education and training needs of unemployed people aged 21 or over. It is offered by the 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) throughout the country. Participation in vocational training opportunities scheme courses is in two modes as follows:

  • as a ‘core’ vocational training opportunities scheme; students participate in a group of up to twenty other vocational training opportunities scheme students in a vocational training opportunities scheme centre or adult education centre;
  • as a ‘dispersed’ vocational training opportunities scheme; students participate in a group of students, some of whom may be vocational training opportunities scheme students and some of whom will be studying through other schemes/programmes (e.g. post leaving certificate course).

Vocational training opportunities scheme programmes offer a wide choice of subjects and learning activities. Certification is available at a range of levels.

Traditionally, programmes at tertiary level are not officially designated as being VET or General, although many programmes at higher education level are designed to qualify learners for work in specific occupations (e.g. teacher, architect, doctor, engineer). In this regard, tertiary education in Ireland does lead to VET related qualifications. However, in 2016, for the first time in Ireland, an apprenticeship programme became available at higher education level (insurance studies). Learners must hold an upper secondary education qualification and be in employment. Nonetheless, apprenticeship training at tertiary level is currently not a typical feature of the sector.

Until 2016, formal apprenticeship training was restricted to 27 trades, mostly concentrated in the construction and engineering sectors. However, following a review of the apprenticeship system by the education ministry in 2013, a decision was made to expand the apprenticeship system to other sectors of the economy. The qualifications, duration and economic sectors of the new apprenticeships differ somewhat to the earlier apprenticeships, and, as a result, formal apprenticeship training falls into two programme types: (a) pre-2016 craft apprenticeship and (b) post-2016 apprenticeship.

In both apprenticeship programme types, apprentices are considered to be part of the employed population and pay the appropriate level of employment insurance. They sign an employment contract with the employer and, therefore, have the legal status (and associated rights and responsibilities) of employees.

A national apprenticeship council oversees apprenticeship in Ireland. SOLAS (Ireland’s further education and training (FET) authority) is the lead agency responsible for apprenticeship on behalf of the government. It collaborates with the Higher Education Authority (responsible for tertiary education), Quality and Qualifications Ireland (industry and education) and training providers across both the FET and third level education system. It is the responsibility of SOLAS to maintain a national register of employers approved to take on apprentices and a national register of apprentices.

The national apprenticeship system is funded through the national training fund and from the exchequer.

In 2016, Ireland’s national skills strategy 2025 set a target to significantly expand the apprenticeship system, both in terms of the numbers of learners and the occupations and sectors in which apprenticeships would be available. The action plan to expand apprenticeship outlines the plan to increase the number of apprenticeship places over the period 2016-20 to 31 000 (up from approximately 12 000), and to increase the number of apprenticeship programmes to more than 70 (up from 27). These increases are expected to be rolled out incrementally to 2020.

Pre-2016 craft apprenticeship

The apprenticeship system in Ireland is governed by the 1967 Industrial Training Act and is organised by SOLAS (FET funding and planning authority) in cooperation with the education ministry, employers and unions. The pre-2016 craft-based apprenticeship programmes normally consist of seven phases: three off-the-job and four on-the-job. Phases 1, 3, 5 and 7 take place with the employer, while Phases 2, 4 and 6 take place at an education and training board (phase 2) or an institute of technology (phases 4 and 6). The total duration of off-the-job phases is approximately 40 weeks. The employer pays the apprentice for the on-the-job phases, while the State pays a training allowance to apprentices during the off-the-job phases. On completion of apprenticeship training, a qualified apprentice receives a craft certificate (NFQ 6 or EQF 5, ISCED 544, 554).

For pre-2016 craft apprenticeship training, the formal minimum entry requirement in Ireland is the junior certificate or equivalent (NFQ 3 or EQF 2) qualification. In practice, however, the vast majority (three-quarters) of new apprentices hold higher levels of education, typically a leaving certificate (NFQ level 4/5 or EQF level 3/4). Learners who do not meet the minimum education entry requirements may be registered as apprentices by an employer if they have either successfully completed an approved pre-apprenticeship course or if they are over 16 years old and have at least three years’ approved work experience. Some apprenticeships also require applicants to pass a SOLAS-approved colour vision test (e.g. electrical apprenticeship, painter and decorator apprenticeship).

In order to register as an apprentice, a learner must first secure employment in the trade s/he wishes to undertake.

Post-2016 apprenticeship

Since the expansion of the apprenticeship system in 2016, several new apprenticeship programmes have become available. As of August 2018, there were 23 additional formal apprenticeship programmes being run, many of which are delivered at tertiary level institutions; they span a range of sectors, including hospitality (e.g. chef de partie), finance (e.g. insurance practice) and engineering (e.g. polymer processing technology). These new apprenticeships must be a minimum of two years in duration; they lead to awards spanning levels 5-8 on the national framework for qualifications (EQF levels 4-6).

In addition, there are a number of apprenticeships at various stages of development; the proposed national framework for qualifications levels for these apprenticeships range from national framework for qualifications levels 5-10 (EQF levels 4-8), and have proposed durations of two to four years. They include retail practice, arboriculture and HGV driver.

The employer pays the apprentice for the duration of the apprenticeship.

For post-2016 apprenticeships, the entry requirements vary, depending on the specific apprenticeship programme, although a leaving certificate is generally the minimum requirement. For entry to apprenticeship programmes at third level, learners often need to meet certain academic requirements (e.g. for the insurance practice apprenticeship, learners must hold minimum grades in at least six subjects (including mathematics and English or Irish)).

Generally an apprentice does not pay fees. However, a student contribution is levied on all students (including apprentices) attending institutes of technology (i.e. phases 4 and 6 of apprenticeship training). The maximum rate of the student contribution for the academic year 2016/17 was EUR 3 000, although in practice the amount was typically lower than this. (Student contributions only apply to learners on apprenticeship programmes delivered at an institute of technology; some apprenticeships, such as accounting technician or commis chef are not delivered at an institute of technology, and so are not subject to the student contribution.)

In order to register as an apprentice, a learner must first secure employment in the trade s/he wishes to undertake. Apprentices are not eligible for a student grant.

The number of apprentices was extremely low during the economic recession but has now increased to 15 500 (in 2018) compared to the 3 273 observed earlier in the decade, (Q 16 on the website).

Additionally, apprenticeship is not considered a second chance route (Q 10 on the website), although it is not a typical education route for most of those graduating from upper secondary education.

Learn more about apprenticeships in the national context from the European database on apprenticeship schemes by Cedefop: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/data-visualisations/apprenticeship-schemes/scheme-fiches

Responsibility for taking decisions and implementing further education and training, which includes most VET provision in Ireland, lies with SOLAS, a government agency, in conjunction with 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs), who are the VET providers. Both SOLAS and the education and training boards are agencies of the education ministry. This remit was established under the Further Education and Training Act 2013, which was signed into law in July 2013 ([14]http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2013/act/25/enacted/en/print.html). The Act required SOLAS to submit a five-year strategy for further education and training provision in Ireland. The further education and training strategy ([15]Department for Education and Skills; SOLAS (2014). Further education and training strategy, 2014-19. https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/Further-Educatio...) guides the provision of further education and training in Ireland (including VET, such as apprenticeship and upskilling initiatives for the employed,).

The further education and training strategy complements other government strategies such as the National Skill Strategy ([16]Department for Education and Skills (2016). Ireland’s skills strategy 2025: Ireland’s future. https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/pub_national_ski...) and the Action Plan for Jobs ([17]Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (2017). Action plans for jobs. https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/Action-Plan-for-Jo...).

Since 2016, and the reform of apprenticeship, Ireland’s higher education authority also plays a role in the oversight of VET programmes that are delivered in higher education institutions (namely institutes of technology).

In 2018, the further education and training services plan provided for a total budget allocation of EUR 647.6 million to the further education and training authority (SOLAS) for the provision of further education and training programmes. Included within the funding allocated for further education and training is the funding for VET programmes. The funding is received from two main sources, the Exchequer and the national training fund. Most of the funding is allocated through SOLAS to the education and training boards. Of the EUR 647.6 million allocated to SOLAS, EUR 366.8 million comes from Exchequer funding and EUR 277.5 million comes from the national training fund; the remaining EUR 3.3 million comes from SOLAS-generated income.

  • EUR per student per year
  • % from GDP
  • % from government spending
  • historical trends

Information not available

Given the diverse nature of further education and training and VET programmes offered to learners in Ireland, there are several categories of teaching and training professionals working in VET.

In general, VET teacher/trainer categories are distinguished by the programmes they deliver, their technical and pedagogical qualifications required, and the funding mechanisms.

  • Teachers work in education and training boards in schools or colleges of further education that deliver post leaving certificate courses and/or vocational training opportunities scheme programmes. Although further education and training teachers deliver their programmes (including VET) at ISCED level 4 (leading to awards at national framework of qualifications levels 5-6 and European qualifications framework levels 4-5), they are registered with the teaching council as second level teachers. To register, teachers must hold an honours bachelor degree (at national framework of qualifications level 8; European qualifications framework level 6; ISCED 665, 666) and an approved initial teacher education qualification (postgraduate diploma at national framework of qualifications levels 8 or 9 (European qualifications framework levels 6 or 7); alternatively, a teacher may hold a concurrent degree qualification in post-primary initial teacher education (national framework of qualifications level 8; European qualifications framework level 6), which combines the study of one or more curricular subjects with teacher education studies.
  • Apprenticeship instructors work in education and training boards in training centres which deliver the first off-the-job phase of apprenticeship (phase 2). At present, there is no requirement for instructors on classroom based apprenticeship programmes to hold a pedagogical qualification, but they must hold a craft certificate (national framework of qualifications level 6; European qualifications framework level 5), plus 5 years experience.
  • Apprenticeship lecturers work in institutes of technology, which are third level institutions, delivering training on the remaining two phases (4 and 7) of the apprenticeship programme. Apprenticeship lecturers must hold a degree (national framework of qualifications levels 7-8; European qualifications framework level 6) or equivalent in the subject area, or hold a craft certificate (European qualifications framework level 5) and have three years’ postgraduate experience.
  • Work based tutors are employed, in both private and public sectors, in craft occupations. They are responsible for overseeing the work and training of apprentices during the on-the-job phases of the apprenticeship programme (phases 1, 3, 5 and 7).

Employers must employ a suitably qualified and relevant craftsperson who has been approved by the further education and training authority (SOLAS) to act as:

  • workplace assessor. The assessor must have completed the SOLAS assessor and verifier programme provided by the education and training boards. This course lasts approximately one day and is not aligned with the national framework of qualifications;
  • workplace tutor. The tutor must be competent and qualified (a holder of a national craft certificate (European qualifications framework level 5) to train apprentices.

The tutor and assessor can be the same person provided they hold the relevant qualification.

Tutors/trainers work on VET programmes or on general learning programmes in education and training boards. They deliver training (other than apprenticeship) or education (e.g. adult literacy), often on programmes aimed at the unemployed (e.g. specific skills training or other VET programmes), or early school leavers (general education).

For other types of VET training in the further education and training sector the qualifications and professional standards of trainers vary. In general, programmes leading to a Quality and Qualifications Ireland award require a subject matter qualification (usually one level higher than that of the course being taught), a pedagogical qualification (usually at third level) and 5 years’ industry experience. For all other training, such as computing or accounting, trainer profiles tend to vary depending on the awarding body, the subject matter being taught and the provider. However pedagogical qualifications are increasingly in demand for these types of courses.

Trainers in other types of training programmes are generally required to hold a technical qualification at a level that is one step above the programme being delivered. In addition, they must also hold a minimum amount of relevant work experience. Increasingly, however, there is a demand for these trainers to hold a pedagogical qualification.

Other trainers work in a variety of further education and training settings, including education and training boards, Skillnets ([18]Skillnet Ireland is a national agency dedicated to the promotion and facilitation of workforce learning in Ireland. The organisation was established in 1999 and works with businesses and their employees to address their current and future skills needs by providing high quality, subsidised training through a series of enterprise-led training networks which operate across a range of sectors and regions. Skillnet Ireland receives public funding through the National Training Fund (NTF) (a dedicated fund to support the training of those in employment, and those seeking employment). In addition to NTF funding, Skillnet Ireland channels funding into its training programmes via matching funding provided by its network member enterprises. Skillnets training interventions comprise mostly short courses (days rather than weeks or months). More information available at:
https://www.skillnetireland.ie/
) (mostly providing training, although not exclusively, to the employed) and private sector providers.

With the exception of apprenticeships, continuing professional development (CPD) for further education and training professionals in Ireland has, until recently, been taking place mostly on an ad-hoc basis and has lacked a strategic focus at national level.

This situation is expected to change in the future as the further education and training strategy ([19]Department for Education and Skills; SOLAS (2014). Further education and training strategy, 2014-19. https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/Further-Educatio...) has emphasised the importance of a ‘clear and consistent professional and competency skill roadmap for those entering into and those (already) involved in the further education and training sector in its broadest sense’. The strategy also recognises the need for a continuing professional development requirement for those employed in the further education and training sector in addition to the professional qualifications. The Skills Profile ([20]The Skills Profile is an IT-based tool designed to capture information that will facilitate the on-going review of skills and qualification profile of personnel in the sector. It is anticipated that the outputs from the skills profile project will assist SOLAS and its education and training boards’ (ETBs) partners in developing an overall Continuous professional development strategy and appropriate responses to identified priority needs to assist with future workforce and personnel development planning.) will also help address the information deficit on continuing professional development participation in further education and training.

The continuing professional development strategy will be developed by SOLAS in an evidence-based manner.

Evidence will be drawn from both primary and secondary sources, nationally and internationally, and will be both qualitative and quantitative in nature. In addition to the data from the skills profile reports, it is expected that other sources of data will be analysed as part of the continuing professional development strategy development process, including sector activity information, as well as reports on labour market and future skills needs. A key element of the development process is extensive consultation with key further education and training sector stakeholders to develop a comprehensive view of further education and training professional development issues from a wide perspective.

The continuing professional development strategy will be the first agreed articulation of national policy for the professional development of staff in the newly integrated further education and training sector.

More information is available in the Cedefop ReferNet thematic perspective on teachers and trainers ([21]http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/country-reports/teachers-and-trainers).

 

 

Following publication of the national skills strategy 2025 (in 2016), the system for the identification of skills needs in Ireland was reconfigured. Skills needs identification is now overseen by a National Skills Council, which was established in 2017. The National Skills Council is chaired by Ireland’s Minister for Education and Skills and is made up of representatives (usually senior civil servants or chief executive officers) from a number of government departments (ministries), their agencies and employers.

More specifically the National Skills Council includes representatives from the following:

  • Department of education and skills;
  • Department of business, enterprise and innovation;
  • Department of public expenditure and reform;
  • Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection;
  • employers.

The figure below depicts the composition of the National Skills Council ([22]Source: SOLAS.).

 

 

 

The National Skills Council oversees the process of skills needs identification in Ireland. It is informed by the work of:

  • an expert group on future skills needs, which provides advice on sectoral developments in terms of employment;
  • regional skills fora: a network of nine fora that forms a direct link between education and training providers and employers at local level;
  • The Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU), which monitors the supply and demand for skills and occupational labour. Every year, the skills and labour market research unit publishes the national skills bulletin, a summary of the various supply and demand indicators for skills and labour in Ireland ([23]http://www.solas.ie/SkillsToAdvance/Documents/National%20Skills%20Bulletin%202018.pdf). The national skills bulletin also provides a list of the occupations for which a shortage has been identified, distinguishing between a skills shortage, a labour shortage, or a possible future (within the next five years) shortage. Every five years (or when the data permits), the skills and labour market research unit carries out a medium-term forecasting project, which looks at the demand for skills at occupational level ([24]http://www.solas.ie/SolasPdfLibrary/OccupationalEmploymentForecasts2013.pdf).

See also Cedefop’s skills forecast ([25]http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/data-visualisations/skills-forecast) and European skills index ([26]https://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/en/indicators/european-skills-index).

Under the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012 ([27]Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2012/act/28/enacted/en/print.html), the government established Quality and Qualifications Ireland ([28]https://www.qqi.ie/). Quality and Qualifications Ireland operates under the Department of Education and Skills. It is both an awarding and a quality assurance body. While the remit of Quality and Qualifications Ireland extends to both general and vocational education and training awards, it plays a key role in setting standards and qualifications in VET (a significant share of VET-related awards are made by Quality and Qualifications Ireland).

 

The specific statutory functions of Quality and Qualifications Ireland include, for example:

  • establishing the standards of knowledge, skills or competences to be acquired by learners before an award can be made by Quality and Qualifications Ireland, or by an education and training provider to which authority to make an award has been delegated;
  • making awards or delegating authority to make an award where it considers it appropriate; reviewing and monitoring the operation of the authority so delegated.

Quality and Qualifications Ireland sets standards for further education and training awards (including VET) and tertiary education awards made outside the university sector ([29]The awards at tertiary level are made to learners at a variety of tertiary institutions including private independent colleges. Third level institutions such as most institutes of technology have received delegated authority from Quality and Qualifications Ireland make their own awards. Universities and Dublin Institute of Technology act as their own awarding bodies.).

Quality and Qualifications Ireland awards’ standards are determined within the National Framework of Qualifications, which comprises a grid of indicators, award-type descriptors and other policies, criteria, standards and guidelines that may be issued to support it. Quality and Qualifications Ireland determines awards’ standards for the education and training awards that it makes itself and that are made by providers to whom it has delegated authority to make an award. Such standards are determined to be consistent with the national framework of qualifications award types.

Under the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012, Quality and Qualifications Ireland is required to develop and publish guidelines for providers for the quality assurance of their programmes and services. Providers are required by legislation to have regard to Quality and Qualifications Ireland guidelines in developing their own procedures for quality assurance. In some instances, such as programme validation, providers’ quality assurance procedures must be approved by Quality and Qualifications Ireland as fit for purpose.

Therefore, providers are responsible for assuring the quality of their own programmes with reference to the guidelines and criteria issued by Quality and Qualifications Ireland. Given the variety of providers in Ireland, Quality and Qualifications Ireland has developed guidelines for a number of sectors, including the further education and training sector. Quality and Qualifications Ireland guidelines for further education and training providers are directed to the EQAVET Framework, the European initiative for quality assurance in VET, designed to provide tools for the management of quality in vocational education and training. Quality and Qualifications Ireland is an active contributor to EQAVET’s work on a European level and these guidelines are designed to complement EQAVET guidelines.

Programme validation is a key quality assurance process that Quality and Qualifications Ireland uses to approve new programmes proposed by providers of education and training. Validation in this context means that a programme meets minimum standards in terms of learning outcomes and national framework of qualifications levels. Programme validation, therefore, can assure providers and learners that successful completion of a programme validated by Quality and Qualifications Ireland will lead to a specific national framework of qualifications awards.

Programme validation is a two-stage process:

  • approval of the provider’s ability to quality assure its programmes;
  • validation by Quality and Qualifications Ireland of a specific programme(s). Quality and Qualifications Ireland does this by appointing independent expert(s) to compare provider proposals against the requirements of the particular national framework of qualifications award(s).

If the proposed programme meets Quality and Qualifications Ireland criteria, it can be validated for up to five years. If the criteria are not met then the programme cannot be offered as proposed.

Under an EU Council recommendation ([30]Council of the European Union (2012). Council recommendation of 20 December 2012 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning. Official Journal of the European Union, C 398, 22.12.2012, p.1-5.
https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2012:398:0001:0005:EN:PDF
), Member States should have arrangements in place for the validation of non-formal and informal learning no later than 2018. Under the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012, Quality and Qualifications Ireland is required to establish policies on recognition of prior learning within the policies and criteria for Access, Transfer and Progression (ATP).

While the legal basis for the development of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) policies was established in the Qualifications Act 1999, the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI) published principles and operational guidelines in 2005 ([31]https://www.qqi.ie/Downloads/Principles%20and%20Operational%20Guidelines...). Recognition of prior learning policy is currently being revised by Quality and Qualifications Ireland. Quality and Qualifications Ireland has consulted widely with relevant stakeholders to achieve a more cohesive approach to delivering recognition of prior learning nationally. Quality and Qualifications Ireland aims to develop comprehensive policy and operational procedures in line with legislation on the basis of national collaboration, consideration of the current arrangements and identification of best practice nationally and internationally.

For more information about arrangements for the validation of non-formal and informal learning please visit Cedefop’s European database ([32]http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/data-visualisations/european-database-on-validation-of-non-formal-and-informal-learning).

Funding

In common with other sections of the Irish education sector, the provision of public vocational and education training is largely funded by the Exchequer and consequently VET programmes are provided free or at a minimal charge. As an example, the post leaving certificate programme is an important element of VET provision to young people who have completed their leaving certificate and to adults returning to education.

Since the 2011/12 academic year, students on post leaving certificate courses have paid a participant contribution of EUR 200 (prior to this, students did not have to pay any fees). There may be other minimal costs, i.e. registration and exam fees, which may vary according to the different colleges. Certain categories of post leaving certificate students are exempted from this participant contribution: for example, learners who qualify for a student grant do not have to pay the participant contribution. Colleges offering post leaving certificate courses may, however, levy a 'course charge' to cover such expenses as books, uniforms, student services, professional registration fees and examination fees.

The cost of taking up further education and training courses is much less expensive than attending higher education courses in Ireland.

Grants, allowances, support

There are numerous grants and incentives available to support individuals intending to take up courses in the further education and training sector:

  • the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) is available to carers, people with disabilities, unemployed people and lone parents. This allowance provides these individuals with the opportunity to study at second level (both lower secondary (NFQ 3/EQF 2, ISCED 244) and upper secondary (NFQ 4/5, EQF 3/4, ISCED 343, 344) or further (NFQ 1-6/EQF 1-5) and tertiary (third level) (NFQ 6-10, EQF 5-8, ISCED 544-864) education, while keeping their existing social welfare payments;
  • the Back to Education Initiative (BTEI) is targeted at people over the age of 16 who have not completed their leaving certificate and allows participants to combine family and work with a part-time further education programme;
  • the CETS (Childcare Employment and Training Support) scheme provides subsidised childcare places for some applicants to further education and training courses including VET (specific skills training, vocational training opportunities scheme, and traineeships).

 

Other initiatives available to trainees include:

  • a training allowance which may be paid for the duration of the course;
  • an accommodation allowance should the individual live away from home in order to attend the course;
  • a travel allowance should the trainee live more than three miles from the education and training board ([33]The allowances paid depend on a number of factors including the programme type. Depending on the programme, the allowances paid to trainees can be the equivalent of the payment made to the unemployed. Travel and accommodation allowances depend on the programme and the distance the learner lives from the training centre (e.g. EUR 32.60 per week for somebody living at a distance of 64 kilometres or more. An accommodation allowance is typically EUR 69.90 per week.).

Positive employability outcomes

The first goal in the corporate plan 2017-19 of the further education and training authority (SOLAS) is for further education and training provision to align with labour market and learners’ employability and lifelong learning needs. By striving to ensure positive employability outcomes for those undertaking further education and training (including VET) programmes, SOLAS aims to increase the attractiveness of further education and training among school leavers and other learners in Ireland. To this end, monitoring learner outcomes from further education and training courses is a key function of SOLAS. This data, along with local labour market intelligence (also provided by SOLAS), informs the further education and training planning agreements SOLAS makes with education and training boards as the basis for receipt of funding. These activities help to ensure that courses provided by education and training boards are up-to-date and in conjunction with employers’ needs and that learners from VET-oriented courses will be job ready. Currently, most monitoring is carried out through regular surveys. However, administrative data sets will be increasingly used to monitor learner outcomes. Initial steps were taken in pilot programmes in 2016, with further work currently ongoing.

Further education and training development framework for employees

In October 2018, the further education and training authority (SOLAS) published its further education and training employee development framework, which aims to upskill and reskill vulnerable workers. Further education and training provision for these workers includes digital skills training, technical, socio-emotional and cognitive training. The target cohorts are older workers, those with low education attainment (less than national framework of qualifications level 5/European qualifications framework level 4), those working in vulnerable occupations/sectors (e.g. elementary and operatives working in some low tech manufacturing). Currently, briefing sessions are being held at education and training board level, with efforts concentrating on developing education and training board capacity, rolling out a promotional campaign and monitoring metrics. This is a dedicated initiative, with dedicated funding allocated to it, and builds on existing programmes by embedding the policy in this area ([34]Enterprises don’t receive any direct funding. The funding goes to the provider.).

The policy also supports small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in investing in their workforces. While responsibility for skills development of employees will continue to remain with employers, this policy aims to complement existing employer-based and State initiatives through targeted support and investment by government. It is planned that, by 2021, over 40 000 workers will be engaging in State-supported upskilling; 4 500 SMEs (small and medium enterprises) will be supported through this initiative.

Guidance and counselling takes different forms throughout the VET sector. Learners generally access courses and services through self‐referral or having been referred to courses and services through the department of social protection. For example, with regard to post leaving certificate courses, school leavers or adults generally choose the course and apply directly by letter or online to the school or college offering that course. In some instances they will be called for an interview before final selection. Post leaving certificate courses’ participants may receive in-house education and career guidance on the issue of vocational area choice, on progression to work and progression through a special links programme to an institute of technology.

For young learners who join the youthreach programme on leaving school at the age of 16 (or younger), counselling and psychological services are available as well as a guidance service, in recognition of the social and personal challenges experienced by many youthreach participants. The National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) has a role in the support and development of guidance in youthreach and similar programmes. The remit of the national centre for guidance in education, which is an agency of the education ministry, is to develop and support quality guidance provision in the education sector as part of lifelong learning in accordance with national and international best practice. The national centre for guidance in education has collaborated with the youthreach programme in the development of the web wheel model ([35]More information on the WebWheel model can be found at the Youthreach website:
http://www.youthreach.ie/web-wheel/
), a core element of which includes the use of mentoring techniques to develop and guide one-to-one relationships between students and staff. This process uses a specific profiling tool, the wheel, to assess student needs, to structure and guide the mentoring conversations and to review and monitor progress.

SOLAS is working with the national centre for guidance in education to coordinate the adult education guidance initiative within the education and training boards, which provides nationwide guidance for learners before and after they participate in vocational training opportunities schemes programmes.

The institutes of technology provide higher education and some VET and further education and training programmes. The majority of the institutes of technology offer a careers service to students. The main provision is targeted at final year students and recent graduates, though some careers services have started to provide careers education in the curriculum of undergraduate courses. The careers advisory/appointments office provides information on education and employment opportunities. Universities and the institutes of technology are not statutorily required to offer careers services and the provision can differ across the sector. At present many of the careers services are involved in programmes promoting student retention in higher education and training.

With regard to apprenticeship, each person must first obtain employment as an apprentice in their chosen trade. The employer must be approved to train apprentices and must register the person with SOLAS as an apprentice within two weeks of recruitment. The registered apprentice is then called for training by SOLAS.

Further education and training practitioners require reskilling throughout their careers to meet the changing needs of learners in further education and training. There are a number of organisations and agencies that are already providing development opportunities to further education and training practitioners: the further education and support service in programme development and quality assurance; the national centre for guidance in education for further education and training guidance personnel; the National Learning Network and the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) for disability awareness, etc.

Please see:

Vocational education and training system chart

Tertiary

Click on a programme type to see more info
Programme Types

EQF 5

Higher certificate

programme,

2 years

ISCED 544, 554

Initial VET programmes leading to EQF level 5,ISCED 544, 554.
EQF level
5
ISCED-P 2011 level

544, 554

Usual entry grade

Not applicable

Usual completion grade

Not applicable

Usual entry age

18+

Usual completion age

Not applicable

Length of a programme (years)

2

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

N

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

Is it initial VET?

Y

In so far as VET is offered at this level (it’s a very small component), it is part of initial VET.

Is it continuing VET?

N

Is it offered free of charge?

Y

All students, unless in receipt of a means tested grant, must pay fees.

Is it available for adults?

Y

ECVET or other credits

Usually 120 ECTs are earned on completion of the two years ([46]Credits are decided individually by the higher education institutions.).

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)
  • School based learning
Main providers
  • Schools (institutes of technology, universities, colleges of education)
Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

Information not available

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

Information not available

Main target groups

The main target group are school leavers, but increasingly older learners are being encouraged to take up opportunities at this level.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

Upper secondary certificate

For some lifelong learning focussed programmes, however, formal education requirements may differ and work experience may be sufficient.

Assessment of learning outcomes

To complete programmes at this level, learners need to pass a final examination (part of the grade may be earned through continuous assessment). Assessment is typically based on learning outcomes.

Diplomas/certificates provided

Learners receive a higher certificate on completion of their studies.

Examples of qualifications

Higher certificate in business studies,

marketing associate professional ([47]As described in national context.)

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Progression to the next level (EQF 6) of tertiary education. Learners may also enter the labour market.

Destination of graduates

Information not available

Awards through validation of prior learning

N

General education subjects

Y

Key competences

Information not available

Application of learning outcomes approach

Y

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

EQF 6

Undergraduate

Programmes,

3 years

ISCED 665

Initial VET programmes leading to EQF level 6, ISCED 665
EQF level
6
ISCED-P 2011 level

665

Usual entry grade

Not applicable

Usual completion grade

Not applicable

Usual entry age

18+

Usual completion age

Not applicable

Length of a programme (years)

3

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

N

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

Is it initial VET?

Y

Not all programmes at this level are VET, but some engineering/science, can be considered to be VET, and in this instance, they would be IVET.

Is it continuing VET?

N

Is it offered free of charge?

N

All learners in tertiary education, unless in receipt of a means-tested grant, must pay fees.

Is it available for adults?

Y

ECVET or other credits

Typically 180 credits (ECTS) ([48]Credits are decided individually by the higher education institutions.)

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)
  • school-based learning
Main providers

Schools (Institutes of technology, universities, colleges of education)

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

Information not available

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

Information not available

Main target groups

Programmes are available for young people and also for adults.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

A leaving certificate award is the minimum entry requirement.

Assessment of learning outcomes

To complete programmes at this level, learners need to pass a final examination (part of the grade may be earned through continuous assessment). Assessment is typically based on learning outcomes.

Diplomas/certificates provided

Learners receive a diploma (undergraduate).

Examples of qualifications

Ordinary bachelor degree in business studies ([49]As described in national context.).

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Those who complete VET can enter the labour market of continue their studie to EQF level 6 (honours degree).

Destination of graduates

Information not available

Awards through validation of prior learning

N

General education subjects

Y

Key competences

Y

Application of learning outcomes approach

Y

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

EQF 5-6

Undergraduate

programmes,

3-5 years

ISCED 665, 666

Initial VET programmes leading to EQF levels 5- 6, ISCED 665, 666.
EQF level
5-6
ISCED-P 2011 level

665, 666

Usual entry grade

Not applicable

Usual completion grade

Not applicable

Usual entry age

18+

Usual completion age

Not applicable

Length of a programme (years)

3-5

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

N

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

Is it initial VET?

Y

Is it continuing VET?

N

Is it offered free of charge?

N

Third level fees apply to all learners, with the exception of those in receipt of a means-tested grant

Is it available for adults?

Y

ECVET or other credits

180 – 240 ECTS, depending on the programme ([50]Credits are decided individually by the higher education institutions.).

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)
  • mostly school based learning
Main providers
  • universities;
  • institutes of technology
  • colleges of education
Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

Information not available

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

Information not available

Main target groups

Programmes are predominantly targeted at young people, but are available to adults also.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

A leaving certificate award is the minimum requirement.

Assessment of learning outcomes

To complete VET programmes at this level, learners need pass a final examination (which may also include continuous assessment component as part of the final grade)

Diplomas/certificates provided

Learners receive an honours bachelor degree.

Examples of qualifications

Bachelor of arts (hons) degree), bachelor of science (hons) degree ([51]As described in national context.).

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Those who complete education/training at this level can enter the labour market or continue their studies at EQF 7.

Destination of graduates

75% of graduates in 2017 had either started or were about to start a job, although this share varies by field of learning ([52]As reported in: Higher Education Authority (2017). Graduate outcomes survey: class of 2017.
https://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2019/02/HEA-Graduate-Outcomes-Survey.pdf
), 18% were engaged in further study,4% were employed,3% were engaged in other activities.

Awards through validation of prior learning

Information not available

General education subjects

Information not available

Key competences

Information not available

Application of learning outcomes approach

Information not available

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

EQF 6-7

Post-graduate

programmes,

1-2 years

ISCED 667,767

Initial VET programmes leading to EQF levels 6-7, ISCED 667,767
EQF level
6-7
ISCED-P 2011 level

667,767

Usual entry grade

Not applicable

Usual completion grade

Not applicable

Usual entry age

18+

Usual completion age

Not applicable

Length of a programme (years)

2 (up to)

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

N

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

Is it initial VET?

Y

Is it continuing VET?

N

Is it offered free of charge?

N

learners must pay fees in most instances

Is it available for adults?

Y

ECVET or other credits

60-120 ECTS credits depending on the programme ([53]Credits are decided individually by the higher education institutions.)

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)

Information not available

Main providers
  • Schools (universities, institutes of technology, colleges of education)
Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

Information not available

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

Information not available

Main target groups

Programmes are available for young people and also for adults.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

The minimum requirement for entry to postgraduate education is an honours bachelor degree (EQF 6) or equivalent.

Assessment of learning outcomes

To complete a VET programme at this level, learners need to pass a final examination (part of the final grade may be composed of continuous assessment). Also, depending on the programme, submission of a thesis may also be required.

Diplomas/certificates provided

Depending on the programme a learner may receive a higher diploma, a postgraduate certificate, a postgraduate diploma or a masters degree.

Examples of qualifications

Master’s in education ([54]As described in national context.)

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Those who complete education and training at this level may enter the labour market or continue their studies at the same or higher level (EQF 7 or EQF 8).

Destination of graduates

86% of graduates in 2017 had either started or were about to start a job, although this share varies by field of learning([55]As reported in: Higher Education Authority (2017). Graduate outcomes survey: class of 2017.
https://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2019/02/HEA-Graduate-Outcomes-Survey.pdf
), 4% were engaged in further study,5% were employed,5% were engaged in other activities.

Awards through validation of prior learning

Y

General education subjects

Y

Key competences

Y

Application of learning outcomes approach

Y

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

Post-secondary

Click on a programme type to see more info
Programme Types

EQF 4-5

Post-leaving

certificate courses,

1-2 years

ISCED 443/453

Initial VET programmes leading to EQF levels 4-5, ISCED 443/453
EQF level
4-5
ISCED-P 2011 level

443/453

Usual entry grade

not applicable

Usual completion grade

12+

Usual entry age

18+

Usual completion age

Not applicable

Length of a programme (years)

2 (up to)

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

N

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

Is it initial VET?

Y

In so far as part of the course content is VET in nature, it is considered initial education.

Is it continuing VET?

N

Is it offered free of charge?

N

Is it available for adults?

Y

ECVET or other credits

Not applicable ([38]Credits accumulated, if any, on the basis of certifying bodies, which can vary.)

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)
  • school-based learning;
  • component of work-based learning is small, usually with no minimum duration required; it is usually carried out in the context of work experience with a local employer.
Main providers

Information not available

Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

<30% ([39]For post leaving certificate courses with a work-based learning component.)

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)

No formal requirements

Work experience, when part of the curriculum, typically occurs with a company.

Main target groups

Young people who have completed the upper secondary cycle, adults.

The main target group for post leaving certificate courses is learners who have completed the leaving certificate, which is the examination held at the end of upper secondary education. The aim is to provide education/training in a range of subject areas (e.g. business, art, healthcare, social care, among others).

However, older learners may also enrol on post leaving certificate courses.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

The usual requirement is that the applicant holds a leaving certificate qualification or equivalent (i.e. qualifications at levels EQF3/4). Adults without a leaving certificate may access these courses if they have sufficient work experience.

Assessment of learning outcomes

On completion of a post leaving certificate programme, learners undergo a number of assessments (continuous assessment and written examination). For programmes that lead to an awards made by Quality and Qualifications Ireland, the assessments are based on learning outcomes. Not all programmes lead to an award made by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (industry certification or other awarding bodies may be used).

Diplomas/certificates provided

The certification received depends on the course followed. Usually, courses lead to awards that have been placed at level 4 or 5 on the EQF and they are recognised for progression and employment opportunities. Progression can be to other further education and training courses, or indeed to third level colleges either in Ireland or the UK.

Examples of qualifications

Teachers' aides ([40]As described in national context.)

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Those who complete a post leaving certificate course may progress to tertiary education (though a very small number of learners decides to do so). Primarily, the post leaving certificate courses aim to prepare learners to enter the labour market.

Destination of graduates

According to an evaluation of the post leaving certificate sector published in 2018 ([41]http://www.solas.ie/SolasPdfLibrary/PLC/ESRI_PLC_evaluation.pdf)

  • 33% of post leaving certificate course completers progressed to employment (a breakdown of VET versus general learning is not possible);
  • Almost 21% progressed to further studies within the further education and training (FET) system;
  • 27% progressed to higher education;
  • 12% were unemployed.
Awards through validation of prior learning

N

General education subjects

Y

Most of these courses are general or a mix of general and VET.

Key competences

Y

Key competences are part of the assessment procedure.

Application of learning outcomes approach

Y

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

EQF 3-5

Traineeship

various durations,

WBL min. 30%

ISCED 253, 353, 453

Initial VET programmes leading to EQF levels 3-5, ISCED 253, 353, 453
EQF level
3-5
ISCED-P 2011 level

253, 353, 453

Usual entry grade

not applicable

Usual completion grade

not applicable

Usual entry age

18+

Usual completion age

not applicable

Length of a programme (years)

from 6 months to 2 years

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

N

Is it part of formal education and training system?

N

In the past, traineeships were part of second chance education/training and open only to the employed. Since 2016 they are also open to school leavers, the employed and adult learners.

Is it initial VET?

Y

Is it continuing VET?

N

Is it offered free of charge?

Y

Is it available for adults?

Y

ECVET or other credits

Information not available

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)
  • on- the-job training
  • school based learning
Main providers
  • Schools (Education and Training Board’s training centre)
  • enterprises
Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

>=30%

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)
  • in-company practice
Main target groups

Unemployed, employed, school leavers (either young people or adults).

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

A qualification at EQF level 2 is usually the minimum. In addition for those opting for qualifications at childcare and/or healthcare sectors (especially when they will be dealing with children or adults with disabilities) a police vetting ([42]The police vetting process is about criminal history checks and other relevant information on potential and current employees, volunteers and vocational trainees to approved agencies that provide care to children and vulnerable members of society.) is also required.

Assessment of learning outcomes

Assessment is via exams and continuous assessment methods. They are typically based on learning outcomes.

Diplomas/certificates provided

Learners may receive a full or partial award (with partial awards being recognised as part fulfilment of the requirements for a full award). Awards span levels 3-5 on the EQF.

Examples of qualifications

Healthcare support assistant ([43]As described in national context.)

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Those who complete a traineeship can enter the labour market or progress to further studies within the further education and training system.

Destination of graduates

Information not available

Awards through validation of prior learning

Information not available

General education subjects

Y

Key competences

Y

Application of learning outcomes approach

Y

For traineeships that lead to awards on the national framework of qualifications (made by Quality Qualifications Ireland), a learning outcomes approach is applied.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

EQF 4-5

Apprenticeship

up to 4 years,

WBL ca. 80%

ISCED 453.

Initial VET programmes leading to EQF levels 4-5, ISCED 453.
EQF level
4-5
ISCED-P 2011 level

453

Usual entry grade

Not applicable

Usual completion grade

Not applicable

Usual entry age

18+

Usual completion age

Not applicable

Length of a programme (years)

4 (up to)

  
Is it part of compulsory education and training?

N

Is it part of formal education and training system?

Y

Is it initial VET?

Y

Is it continuing VET?

N

Is it offered free of charge?

Y

In the initial phases. However, any part of the training that takes place in a higher education institution will incur fees.

Is it available for adults?

Y

ECVET or other credits

Information not available

Learning forms (e.g. dual, part-time, distance)
  • school-based learning; (contact studies either at an education/training provider or a higher education institution)
  • in-company practice (practical training in a company).
Main providers
  • Enterprises
  • schools (education and training boards’training Centre or an institute of technology)
Share of work-based learning provided by schools and companies

>=80%

Work-based learning type (workshops at schools, in-company training / apprenticeships)
  • practical training at a college of further education and training
  • in-company practice
Main target groups

Programmes are available for young people and also for adults. Since apprentices are part of the employed, they must be at least 16 years of age. There is no formal upper age limit.

Entry requirements for learners (qualification/education level, age)

There are two types of programmes at this level (box):

  • pre-2106 craft apprenticeship training for which the formal minimum entry requirement is the junior certificate or equivalent (EQF 2 qualification). In practice, however, the vast majority (three quarters) of new apprentices hold higher levels of education, typically a Leaving Certificate (EQF level 3/4);
  • post 2016 apprenticeship for which the entry requirements vary, depending on the specific apprenticeship programme, although a leaving certificate (EQF level 3/4) is generally the minimum.
Assessment of learning outcomes

To complete apprenticeship training, apprentices are assessed at various stages of the programme, both on and off the job. They are based on learning outcomes and include a practical component.

Diplomas/certificates provided

Learners who complete the traditional pre-2016 type apprenticeships receive a craft certificate. For the post 2016 apprenticeship, there are different possibilities depending on the apprenticeship. Once learners begin to emerge from these programmes, they may receive: a level 5 certificate, an advanced certificate, a higher certificate, an ordinary degree, an honours bachelor degree or a masters degree.

Examples of qualifications

Pre-2016 apprenticeships: carpentry and joinery, electrical, instrumentation, plastering([44]As described in national context.)

post-2016 apprenticeship: accounting technician, insurance practice, ICT associate network engineer, retail practice, arboriculture, and HGV driver([45]As described in national context.);

Progression opportunities for learners after graduation

Learners completing programmes in VET typically have a number of options: they may continue their studies in VET, progress to tertiary level education (in an institute of technology) or enter the labour market).

Destination of graduates

All apprentices must hold an employment contract prior to commencing the apprenticeship programme. Therefore destination is by default to employment.

Awards through validation of prior learning

Information not available

General education subjects

Y

General subjects such as mathematics are taught for some apprenticeships, although not all.

Key competences

Y

Competences such as digital skills are taught.

Application of learning outcomes approach

Y

All apprenticeship awards are on the national framework of qualifications, so a learning outcomes approach is applied.

Share of learners in this programme type compared with the total number of VET learners

Information not available

Secondary

Programme Types
Not available

VET available to adults (formal and non-formal)

Programme Types
Not available