Students at UK colleges will begin taking a series of new ‘tech-level’ courses designed with the help of industry this week.
The new qualifications from exam board AQA include: design engineering, mechatronic engineering, power network engineering, IT networking, IT programming, IT user support and business marketing.
The courses are a response to the 2011 Wolf Report, which said that many vocational courses were failing to help students' career prospects, and have been created with the help of technology companies and professional bodies, including Siemens, Toshiba, Microsoft and the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
AQA head of technical and vocational qualifications Carole Bishop said: "We felt strongly that designing qualifications with employers in mind wasn't enough and that it was important to involve the employers right from the start and at every stage of the process.
"The input we've had from more than a hundred organisations means we can be really confident that our tech-levels have exactly what employers are looking for. These new qualifications are on an equal footing with A-levels and we believe employers will start making them a job requirement because they know they'll guarantee the right knowledge and skills."
The Further Education courses available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be joined next year by tech-levels in cyber-security and entertainment technology, which is aimed at training people in the skills needed for industries such as video games.
Mike Morris of Microsoft Education UK said: "We've helped AQA to come up with modules that will be fit-for-purpose in terms of delivering employability into the skills we currently find a challenge in our market place."
The qualifications are designed for 16 to 19-year-olds and carry Ucas points, with the top grade being worth 280 points, thus enabling students to use them to apply to universities as well as to go straight into employment or onto a higher or advanced apprenticeship.
Anne Godfrey, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, said: "Because the performance and outcomes are mapped to relevant national standards and have been developed in collaboration with employers and bodies such as ourselves, it means the knowledge and competencies developed are relevant."