Firms to be asked to endorse new Tech Levels, which will recognise rigorous and responsive technical education

Companies are to be encouraged to give their backing to the vocational qualifications they think are the most effective.

Ministers are to provide information to young people on the courses that equip them best going into the working world.

The move will see exam boards seek endorsements from employers or universities to highlight the quality of the qualifications they offer.

The Department for Education (DfE) said only qualifications that have received public support will make up school league tables from 2016.

Vocational courses that pave the way for students to move into recognised occupations, for instance in engineering or hospitality, must have the backing of five employers registered with Companies House - or professional organisations.

The DfE added the new qualifications will be called Tech Levels and will be the equivalent of an A-level. They will go towards the Government's new Technical Baccalaureate.

Other vocational courses not directly associated with a particular industry will require the backing of three universities. They will have to be at least the equivalent of an AS-level.

To attain the TechBacc, students between the ages of 16 and 19 in England will need to complete a programme of three different courses - a Tech Level, a maths course and the "extended project", an existing qualification that tests skills like writing, communication and research.

The TechBacc, which will not be a qualification but a gauge to use in league tables, is set to be launched this autumn.

Skills minister Matthew Hancock said Tech Levels will promote "rigorous and responsive" technical education. He feels high-quality rigorous vocational education is vital to future prosperity and the hopes of millions.

"Because technical education is so important, it is vital the qualifications young people take are stretching, high-quality and support their aspirations," added Mr Hancock.

"These reforms are unashamedly aspirational and will ensure Tech Levels help people into apprenticeships and jobs."

CBI director of employment and skills Neil Carberry said: "We're facing a critical skills shortage in key industries, which risks holding back long-term recovery - that's why we've been calling for tough new vocational qualifications to help bridge the gap."

Copyright Press Association 2013