Work-based qualifications

Vocational training

Broadly the same vocational training options are available as at age 16. These include Apprenticeships and NVQ training.

NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications)

NVQs have been designed by employers. You gain the qualification by showing that you have the skills, knowledge and understanding necessary to do the job effectively.

NVQs are based on national occupational standards. These standards are statements of performance – they describe what competent people in a particular occupation are expected to be able to do. You compare your performance with these standards as you learn, so that you can see what you have achieved and what you still need to do. Assessment is practical and ongoing throughout the course.

Many colleges of further education offer NVQ courses. They can also be taken in the workplace which enables you to gain further qualifications while earning money.


Apprenticeships allow you to learn and gain a nationally recognised qualification while earning some money. An apprenticeship is available to anyone from the age of 16 and is usually available at two levels – Apprenticeship and Advanced Apprenticeship:

  • Apprenticeship – you will have a job and a wage, or be on a work placement with a training allowance. It takes at least 18 months to complete and leads to NVQ Level 2 (equivalent to five or six GCSEs, grades A* to C) and a Technical Certificate.
  • Advanced Apprenticeship – you will have a full-time job with a wage. The training lasts at least two years and leads to NVQ Level 3 (equivalent to three ‘A’ levels) and a Technical Certificate. It could lead on to a place at University.

All apprenticeship frameworks must include:

  • a competence-based element
  • a knowledge-based element
  • key skills (numeracy, literacy, communication)
  • an awareness and understanding of employment rights and responsibilities


Financial help and advice specifically for young people interested in self-employment is available from organisations such as the Prince’s Youth Business Trust and Shell LiveWire. If you are serious about going into self-employment make sure you get some professional advice. You might want to take a short business course at your local college, Learning and Skills Council (LSC) or chamber of commerce.