Industry training bodies want to recast work-based vocational qualifications as stepping stones to higher education.
The national council of the National Training Organisations is to hold talks with colleges and universities with a view to promoting modern apprenticeships and national traineeships as an alternative route to degree or sub-
degree level qualifications, including perhaps a possible new two-year associates degree.
The national council will submit proposals to the education secretary by Christmas. They will form part of the NTOs' bid to secure a greater say in the promotion and delivery of the apprenticeships and traineeships.
Adrian Anderson, policy director at the national council, said: "We want to push modern apprenticeships as a route into higher education, particularly vocational degrees. Modern apprenticeships are based around the development of competence, but we want to look at how to expand the knowledge base in the apprenticeships."
At August 1 this year, there were 124,000 young people, aged mainly 16 to 18 years, doing modern apprenticeships. Since the schemes began in 1995, 283,000 have undertaken them.
But only 35 per cent of apprentices reach the level-three qualifications target, equivalent to two A levels, which is the minimum entry level for higher education.
The national council is likely to propose completion certificates for modern apprentices, for those reaching level three, and the government should make the payment of the final instalment of funding to trainers dependent on the awarding of certificates.
NTOs will direct much of their efforts towards the new national and local learning and skill councils, which are the central plank of the new post-16 education and training framework set out by the Learning to Succeed white paper.
At national level, the NTOs would help inform policy relating to national training requirements. At local level they would help to ensure that education and training provision meets local skills gaps and requirements.