Firms asked to endorse Tech Levels
Employers are to be asked to endorse the vocational qualifications they believe are the best.
Ministers said it would give young people information on which courses offered them good job prospects.
Under the move, exam boards will be asked to show the quality of the qualifications they offer by winning support from businesses or universities.
Only those qualifications which have public backing will be included in school league tables from 2016, the Department for Education (DfE) said.
Vocational courses that lead to recognised occupations, for example in areas such as engineering or hospitality, will need to be endorsed by five employers registered with Companies House or professional organisations. These new qualifications will become known as Tech Levels, and will be the same size as an A-level, the DfE said.
Other vocational courses that are not directly linked to a particular industry will need the support of three universities, and will have to be at least the equivalent size of an AS-level, the DfE said.
New Tech Levels will count towards the government's new Technical Baccalaureate. To achieve the TechBacc, 16 to 19-year-olds in England will have to complete a programme of three separate courses, including a Tech Level, a maths course, and the ''extended project'' - an existing qualification designed to test skills such as writing, communication and research.
The TechBacc, which will not be not be a qualification but a measure to use in league tables, is due be introduced this autumn.
Skills minister Matthew Hancock said: "Tech Levels will recognise rigorous and responsive technical education. High-quality rigorous vocational education is essential to future prosperity, and the life chances of millions.
"Because technical education is so important, it is vital the qualifications young people take are stretching, high-quality and support their aspirations. These reforms are unashamedly aspirational and will ensure Tech Levels help people into apprenticeships and jobs."