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Dev-Bank Wales MBO


7 February 2024

Vocational Qualifications will Offer a Pathway to Success for the Learners of Today as the Leaders of Tomorrow

The Chief Executive of the Cardiff and Vale College Group has welcomed the introduction of the new Vocational Certificate of Secondary Education (VCSE) that will be introduced from September 2027 for 14 to 16 year olds in Wales.

Speaking to Business News Wales, Mike James said:

“VCSEs will be a new brand of vocational qualifications. They will replace around 300 current vocational qualifications including BTECs, although these still will be available to post-16 learners.

“Of course, vocational qualifications are more practical but our colleagues at Qualifications Wales hope that they will be valued in the same way as traditional GCSEs. That’s quite right as one size does not fit all – our young people need choices and employers needs a wide range of different skills.

“The introduction of the new VCSEs is therefore a great opportunity to raise the profile of vocational learning and develop a future workforce that has the knowledge and skills that Wales needs for both business and economic growth.

“However, it must be recognised that vocational subjects require a different teaching approach to the core subjects that tend to be offered by secondary schools. Specialist knowledge and facilities will need to underpin the offering to ensure that young people benefit from high quality learning else there will be no parity between GCSEs and VCSEs.

“Indeed, further education colleges like Cardiff and Vale have both the experience and the know-how to deliver the new qualifications as a natural extension of our existing offering. We have the teaching staff, the facilities and the relationships with employers to hit the ground running.

“Our junior apprenticeship programme for year 10 and 11 learners is a great example of the difference that our existing vocational offering makes to the lives of young people in the Cardiff Capital Region. We’re right at the heart of driving inclusive prosperity with 270 learners  from 23 different schools having studied on this unique programme over the last seven years. This includes those that, for a number of different reasons, are unable to attend a mainstream or a local authority school and are therefore enrolled in ‘education otherwise than at school’ (EOTAS).

“That’s why I am pleased that our most recent inspection by Estyn praises our work-based learning provision and the positive attitude of our students towards learning. As the largest provider of apprenticeships in the country, the CAVC Group works with thousands of apprentices each year across 50 different sectors. The report by Estyn highlights apprentices’ ‘good initiative’, ‘positive attitudes’, that they are ‘motivated and enthusiastic’ with ‘many ambitious and determined to progress in their organisations’.

“Set up in 2016 as an alternative curriculum offer for year 10 and year 11 learners who were at risk of disengaging at school, our junior apprenticeship programme has gained recognition across the rest of the UK by winning a Beacon Award for progressing learners. The model is now being replicated in other Colleges across Wales.

“It is closely aligned with labour market needs and Welsh Government priorities including construction and building services, automotive engineering, hospitality and catering, hair and beauty and digital creative. GCSEs in maths, numeracy and English are offered alongside the vocational qualifications.

“By working in partnership working with schools, local authorities and Welsh Government, we’re creating pathways for young people, helping to motivate and accelerate them to achieve and progress into a vocational career. We’re also developing a culture of success and reducing post 16 NEET levels, by developing talent to meet future sector priority requirements. Importantly, we are supporting young people from under-represented groups, including ethnically diverse communities – 8% of our learners are from ethnic minority groups and 35% are from areas of high deprivation.

“A great example is Ray Weston who was one of our first intake of Junior Apprentices back in 2016.  He went on to do a Foundation Degree in Film Studies from the Junior Apprentice Digital Creative Pathway. We couldn’t be prouder of Ray and his achievements but we know that there are so many more young people like him who need our specialist help and guidance.

“That’s why we will continue to focus on changing lives by creating skilled and employable people. Our job is to provide young people with the pathway that is right for them. The new vocational qualifications will form an important part of this offering  which is why we’re ready to work with  schools, local authorities and Welsh Government to deliver for the learners of today as the leaders of tomorrow.”


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