As A Level results day comes around again news headlines report the laughter and tears of those celebrating or lamenting their long awaited results.
But what about the vast majority of young people in the UK who achieved top grades for vocational qualifications?
While vocational students’ results may go largely unreported by the media, their efforts and achievements deserve to be recognised alongside those achieving A Levels.
At Wigan & Leigh College more than 2,500 students are celebrating their vocational results, many at Level 3 achieving top grades of Distinction* Distinction* Distinction* - equivalent to three A* A Levels according to UCAS. Some are looking forward to taking up university places or higher education routes, others employment or apprenticeships.
Historically some universities have been more focussed on A-Levels as suitable entry requirements, but as the number of students studying vocational qualifications such as BTECs has risen, the qualification has become more and more respected.
Vocational students prepare for university
Take aspiring computer games developer Adam Goodram. His predicted results mean he has been offered a place at Teeside University to study the BSc (Hons) Computer Games Programming. His BTEC Extended Diploma Level 3 Computer Science and Digital Skills has put him on the right track for university.
“I enjoyed learning the range of programming languages,” said Adam. “We have been on some great trips too, including a visit to the UK’s largest games event EGX Expo in Birmingham, which showcased the latest games and updates.”
Work placements prepare learners for employment
Work placements form an important part of vocational studies. Work experience is crucial in developing the knowledge and skills learned at College and improving the chances of gaining employment through vital hands on experience.
A work placement helps students realise how their College course relates to their career plans, while they discover new talents and improve their understanding of industry.
As part of the BTEC Level 3 Health & Social Care course, Conor Lythgoe worked at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, where he observed health professionals in lots of clinical areas, from orthopaedics to a stroke unit. His role shadowing an Occupational Therapist reinforced his decision to follow this career path.
“Being at work helped me to decide that the healthcare sector is definitely for me,” said Connor. “I saw non clinical roles too, from IT to project management. Overall, it’s made me really excited about the prospect of working in the NHS.”
A Levels compare with vocational qualifications
While vocational subjects make up the majority of study at Wigan & Leigh College, their A Level Professional Studies Programme offers a combination of subjects tailored towards career routes such as business, applied medical, computing and engineering. Alongside their academic studies A Level students take up work experience and professional development days to focus on university applications, or extra skills and qualifications relating to their pathway.
Generally A-Levels are geared towards big exams at the end of two years of studying, whereas BTECs tend to be more practical and are continually assessed through coursework and projects.
BTEC prepares for work and higher study
Chelsea Twist was predicted Distinction* Distinction* Distinction* for the BTEC Level 3 Business Studies. She was offered four university places to continue her higher education in business and management.
She plans to take up the HND in Business at the University Centre Wigan & Leigh College studying around her part-time work commitments. Chelsea was offered a permanent position as a Purchasing Buyer at RMS International following her work placement there.
“The tutors at College were really supportive,” said Chelsea. “I particularly enjoyed the finance module. You can build a good career with a grounding in finance.”
Let’s not forget our hard working vocational students when it comes to celebrating young people’s exam results this year. The breadth of choice for 16 to 18-year-olds on offer at colleges across the UK means there are lots of opportunities to achieve academic and vocational success.
Click here to find out more about Wigan & Leigh College’s offer for school leavers, adults and higher education courses at their University Centre.