BTECs/Technical Level 3s: the employer-led alternative to A Levels that also gets you to university

16 August 2018 | Business & Enterprise, Opinion pieces

City College Plymouth’s CEO & Principal, Garry Phillips, shares his thoughts on Technical Level 3’s/BTECs (Business and Technology Education Council qualifications) and the opportunities they can offer young people.

As students across Plymouth celebrate their A level and BTEC level 3 results, it is worth turning our attention to the difference between these qualifications and how BTECs/Technical Level 3s provide a greater emphasis on practical and employer-led activities; preparing students for the workplace, higher level Apprenticeships and technical university degrees.

Not many people are aware that you can get to university with a BTEC/Technical Level 3. A Levels are not the only way to earn those crucial UCAS points, nor are they the best way to get the practical technical skills that employers and universities are looking for

Our BTEC/Technical Level 3 programmes are designed in partnership with employers with a clear progression route to employment, Apprenticeships or university; making those students who leave us especially well placed to find employment.

To ensure more young people have this opportunity, there needs to be a greater acceptance and acknowledgement by all that a technical career path is a worthwhile option for many, including those already achieving well in the traditional classroom setting. If students do not receive advice on the full range of options, they might continue in school, studying subjects that are not right for them; and not even get the chance to consider anything other than A Levels as an option.

City College Plymouth offers BTECs/Technical Level 3 courses across a wide range of subjects and one of our students celebrating passing the first year of her BTEC is wheelchair tennis champion, Luz Esperanza Merry. The Plymouth-born 17 year old has achieved merit grades for her BTEC Diploma in Business.

Esperanza said: “I was immersed in the business world from a young age and have always found it interesting. From managing flights, to sponsorship deals with big names like Jaguar Landover and Nike through my tennis career, I knew there was so much to learn about in the industry and wanted to give it a go.

“I’m really pleased with my results. I am very proud that I have gone from having no formal qualifications to gaining distinctions. I have tried to adopt the same attitude I have towards tennis, and apply it to my studies. My results really show the journey I’ve been on and that hard work pays off.

“For the second year of my course I hope to further improve and get consistently good grades. I’d eventually like to go to university and then … who knows!”

Whether they have gained A Levels or BTECs/Technical Level 3 qualifications, many young people like Esperanza will now be considering going to university or negotiating the clearing process; however, it is important to remember there are other more suitable and affordable education and training routes available which can lead directly to a career and university.

In fact, over 50% of level 4/5 qualifications (including HNC/Ds and university-level Foundation Degrees) are taught in colleges, according to the Department of Education’s interim review.

Traditional three-year full-time university degrees have an important role, but it is crucial that young people are aware that further education colleges like City College Plymouth also offer a wide range of higher level technical and professional education, including Apprenticeships and part-time study options. Not only are tuition fees less at college, living and travelling costs are also much lower because it is possible to stay at home.

Whatever options you are exploring, City College Plymouth can help. For advice or to apply for a university-level course at City College Plymouth, call the clearing hotline on 01752 305786. For more information on the full range of BTEC and other vocational courses available, including Apprenticeships, visit www.cityplym.ac.uk/events or call 01752 305300 for information.

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