Vocational qualifications make up a large proportion of qualifications taken in Wales and there’s a wide range on offer in schools, colleges and work-based learning settings.

Vocational qualifications should reflect the needs of employers whether they lead to employment or to the next stage of learning. They are available at Levels 1, 2 and 3.

Different assessment approaches are required for different types of vocational qualifications to reflect their nature and purpose.

Undertaking vocational qualifications

Vocational qualifications are taken by learners at a number of ages and stages and in a range of settings.

In schools:

  • where learners aged 14-16 take initial vocational qualifications alongside more traditional GCSEs
  • vocational options are sometimes also GCSEs
  • sometimes they are other qualifications such as BTECs
  • they provide an introduction to areas of work - but they do not require the assessment of competence
  • these qualifications are mostly at Level 1 and Level 2
  • they are often taken alongside the National or Foundation Welsh Baccalaureate

In further education colleges:

In traineeships:

  • delivered through work-based learning providers, where learners aged 16-18 take vocational and other qualifications on programmes that combine learning with work experience
  • these qualifications are normally at Level 1
  • to prepare learners for progression into an apprenticeship or work

In apprenticeships:

  • delivered through work-based learning, where learners aged 16+ are employed as apprentices but also complete a programme of learning and assessment - at Level 2 or Level 3
  • there are also higher-level apprenticeships for older learners

In employment:

  • where learners aged 18+ undertake learning leading to qualifications, to improve their knowledge and skills to support their progression within, or beyond, their current job role
  • learners will often be working toward professional recognition or status within their current or future job roles
  • learning might be developed ‘on the job’ and/or at a learning provider of any description

Vocational qualifications are also taken by adults, not in employment, to improve their employability.


We recognise that Wales has unique characteristics that require careful consideration in all our work, including:

  • the roll-out of the Curriculum for Wales
  • the need for an active offer of bilingual qualifications
  • stability in the range of qualifications available to learners - particularly considering policy changes elsewhere in the UK
  • a demand for a wide range of vocational qualifications - including many with low numbers of learners
  • separate legislative requirements in devolved matters

This is why there are some subjects that have been designed specifically for learners in Wales.

However, there are subjects that have been designed for England that are also available in Wales when there is not already a Welsh-specific version.

Those designed for Wales are referred to as approved qualifications.

Those designed for other UK nations that are also available in Wales are referred to as designated qualifications.