Choosing Vocational Qualifications – from Apprenticeships to BTECs

If you’re a more practical based learner or you have a set career goal in mind, vocational qualifications are probably your best choice after GCSEs. From apprenticeships to BTECs, there’s a whole host of choices for Level 3 study (that’s one up from GCSEs which are a Level 2) that involve a mix of classroom learning, practical assessment, work experience and coursework.

So how to decide what type of VTQ (vocational technical qualification) is right for you? You’ll need to think about how you like to learn (classroom or practical), where you’d like to study (at college, in the workplace or a mix of the two), and how you prefer to be assessed (coursework or practical).

Most vocational routes will involve some form of work experience so they’re really popular with employers as you come out with both qualifications and the skills needed for a particular job. Whether you choose BTECs, NVQs, Apprenticeships or a combination of qualifications, they can all lead on to further study, employment or University if you wish.

Download our Lesson Plan to help you talk through this topic and help students understand their future career prospects.

Learning Objectives

This session introduces vocational and technical qualifications and the differences between them. It outlines the different subjects, courses and levels, entry requirements, methods of study and places of study locally. It also summarises important factors to consider when choosing VTQs – such as costs, transport, how to apply and local providers. Following this lesson, students will:

  • Have a wider understanding of the similarities and differences between these Level 3 qualifications
  • Be able to evaluate which further study route is best for your pathway and study preferences
  • Be able to identify at least three local providers who offer these qualifications.

Choosing Vocational Qualifications – resources for students

We’ve produced a range of articles explaining everything you need to know about vocational qualifications (like BTECs and NVQs), as well as important things to consider when choosing an apprenticeship. You can also search our Career Guides to learn about different sectors to understand the qualifications and entry requirements for different jobs. 

Teacher Guide

You can use the one-page plan above and accompanying resources to create your a lesson of your chosen duration, lead a short assembly or start conversations during form time.

Alternatively, you can download our Extended Lesson Plan (with LMI and full notes on each slide) – a ready made 30-45 mins lesson for you to simply talk through using the information already prepared for you (with key stats and discussion points).

Bitesize Videos

You may also wish to watch the following bitesize videos featuring local students and apprentices during the lesson or send the links home to students to watch independently in order to prepare for the session or as a follow-up. If using during school time, you could use our Bitesize Bingo sheets for younger students to check off what they’ve learnt about in the videos.

Games, Activities & Worksheets

The following printable materials can be used during lessons or sent home with students as follow-up activities:

Individual Activity – VTQ Pathway Planner

Our Digital Prospectus 2023/24 sets out the different routes of study available when you turn 16. It covers all the local colleges and training providers that offer Apprenticeships, BTECs, NVQs and more – from the courses/subjects and qualifications they offer to important information on things like entry requirements or open days.

You can download the Digital Prospectus 2023/24 here.

Whilst using the Prospectus, you may find it useful to make notes using our VTQ Pathway Planner. You can make a leaflet to take home and discuss with your friends or family about the different types of VTQs you’d consider, the pros and cons, where you can study them and where they could lead you.

Group Activity – Interview Role Play Game

Whether you’re considering applying to college to study a BTEC or to an employer to start an Apprenticeship, you’ll need to attend an interview. Download our Interview Role Play pack to learn about different styles of interviews, how to set questions to check for skills and competences, and practice your answers in small groups to get feedback and ideas.

Ideal for starting discussions in the classroom or bringing careers conversations home.