Cyber security on curriculum for students taking 'Tech-levels'
Students will soon be able to take courses in cyber security as part of a range of new "Tech-levels" being offered.
The new qualifications from exam board AQA are part of its response to the 2011 Wolf Report, which said that many vocational courses were failing to help students' career prospects.
Seven Tech-levels are being offered in colleges from this week: business marketing; design engineering; mechatronic engineering; power network engineering; IT networking; IT programming: and IT user support.
These will be joined next year by two more Tech-levels in cyber security and entertainment technology, which will address the need for more people who are skilled at creating video games.
The new qualifications are backed by industry and have been created with the help of technology companies and professional bodies including Siemens, Toshiba and the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
AQA head of technical and vocational qualifications, Carole Bishop, said: "We felt strongly that designing qualifications with employers in mind wasn't enough - and that it was important to involve the employers right from the start and at every stage of the process.
"The input we've had from more than a hundred organisations means we can be really confident that our Tech-levels have exactly what employers are looking for. These new qualifications are on an equal footing with A-levels, and we believe employers will start making them a job requirement because they know they'll guarantee the right knowledge and skills."
The Further Education courses for 16 to 19-year-olds are available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and carry Ucas points, with the top grade being worth 280 points. Students with Tech-levels will be able to go straight into employment, a higher or advanced apprenticeship, or on to university.
Mike Morris of Microsoft Education UK said: "We've helped AQA to come up with modules that will be fit for purpose in terms of delivering employability into the skills we currently find a challenge in our market place."
Anne Godfrey, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, said: "Because the performance and outcomes are mapped to relevant national standards and have been developed in collaboration with employers and bodies such as ourselves, it means the knowledge and competencies developed are relevant."