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Sector news, 15 - 22 December 2013

Launch of new 'A-level' vocational qualifications Guardian, 16 December 2013

A new range of A-level standard vocational qualifications – ranging from motorcycle maintenance to patisserie baking – has been launched with the backing of leading employers as part of the government's efforts to drive up the skills of youngsters in England. The first 142 Tech Levels have the support of businesses or trade groups, which ministers hope will boost the chances of young people striving for jobs against global competition. A range of 87 Applied General Qualifications (AGQs), covering wider business areas and endorsed by at least three universities, has also been announced as part of the shake-up of vocational education. Tech Levels and AGQs will be the only vocational qualifications which will count in 16-19 league tables from 2016 (for those starting courses in September 2014). More than 91 per cent of the 3,721 vocational qualifications currently approved for teaching will be stripped out of the tables as ministers seek to encourage students to take the courses most likely to lead to jobs.

Business Secretary Vince Cable confirms “dropping” of apprenticeship FE loans FE Week, 17 December 2013

FE Week reported that business secretary Vince Cable exclusively confirmed to them that the government is “dropping” the troubled 24+ advanced learning loans system for apprenticeships. There had been just 404 applications in about seven months, and he accepted it had failed, but that non-apprentice FE loans would remain. Latest figures, released last month, showed that of the 52,468 FE loan applications up to October 31, less than 1 per cent were for apprenticeships. The government had forecast there wopuld be 25,000 applications this academic year, up until the end of July 2014.