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Vocational Study

An alternative to GCSEs

This year, students have a new route into work and further study

The diploma is a new qualification for 14- to 19-year-olds was introduced this September. It’s called the diploma, and it is an alternative to the traditional GCSE route, but one which gives you just as many options. The diploma is a qualification based around work, whereby you have the opportunity to experience different styles of learning in different environments, with an emphasis on practical activities. This mix of knowledge, understanding and skills will equip you for employment, continuing at school or going on to college or university.

You will need a whole range of skills in life and the diploma will be invaluable in helping you to develop those and gain the experience that employers, universities and colleges really value. The first five diplomas in construction and the built environment; creative and media; engineering; information technology; and society, health and development are being taught in schools and colleges as we speak. In addition, five more will be launched in September 2009.

What is the difference between a diploma and an apprenticeship?

Diplomas have been created to give you an overview of a particular area of interest and for you to develop a wide set of skills and experience that can be used for further training and development in a range of industries. An apprenticeship, on the other hand, gives you the skills and competence to do a specific job role. You can progress from the diploma to an apprenticeship with the benefit of the introductory knowledge that the diploma can give you.

Which diploma is most relevant to getting a career in the motor industry?

The engineering diploma is fresh and original and gets you involved in the excitement and potential of working in the sector. The diploma consists of three areas of study – principal, specialist and generic – and within the specialist learning section you could choose an option that suits your personal interests or career goals. So, if you’ve got a passion for motors, one of the specialist areas you could opt for is automotive engineering.

Can I move from the diploma on to other qualifications?

The diploma is part of a range of learning options to help you to move from school or college on to university, a job or further training. It is another option for you to consider, and it does not replace existing options such as GCSEs, A-levels or apprenticeships. In fact, you can take GCSEs or A-levels alongside a diploma, which will most likely be the case if you are in Years 10 and 11. You can even choose to take a GCSE or A-level as part of your diploma course, or one of your specialist learning modules.

Will employers and universities recognise the diploma?

By studying for the diploma you will have gained the knowledge and skills needed to go on to employment, college or university. The qualification will be valued by employers and universities alike, because universities were involved in the design process to ensure young people have all the skills they need to be able to make a successful application.

What level of qualification do I get at the end?

When you finish, you’ll receive a foundation, higher or advanced diploma. A foundation diploma is equivalent to five GCSEs at grade D to G, a higher diploma seven GCSEs at grade A* to C and an advanced diploma is a level 3 qualification equivalent to three-and-a-half A-levels. This is based on how long it takes to teach and how difficult it is. A diploma won’t train you for a particular job, but it will give you the chance to explore and develop the skills you need to succeed in work, study and life.

Where can I find out more?

For further information about the diploma visit www.direct.gov.uk/diplomas , while for specific information about the diploma in engineering, www.engineeringdiploma.com is the place to go.