Young people will get the option of studying job-friendly technical subjects instead of taking on debt to go to university under new plans by Andy Burnham.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester wants to launch a Manchester Baccalaureate, or MBacc, to help the two-thirds of local students who do not go down the traditional academic route to get a degree.
Mr Burnham said he wants both pathways to be equal and hopes it will mean youngsters in the region do not have to leave to further their education or careers.
“We think this is a change that Greater Manchester urgently needs but the country does too.”
At the launch Mr Burnham cited a Royal Commission in 1884 that visited Manchester concluding the lack of vocational education for youngsters was damaging the British economy.
Under the current system, young people are offered a clear pathway to university through the EBacc at age 14 – a set of subjects opening up opportunities to A-levels, university and employment.
The MBacc would run alongside the EBacc to maximise students’ chances of getting future jobs by guiding them towards subjects including engineering, business studies and art and design alongside the core subjects of maths, English and computer science.
The plan has the backing of local colleges and business leaders.
Mr Burnham added: “For too long we have ignored the value of technical skills and that ends today in Greater Manchester.
“The EBacc is great for young people who want to go on to university, but there is no equivalent suite of qualifications at 14 and 16 that align with the real-life employment opportunities being created in our city region.
“There is also no direct link to employers, leading to skills gaps in the Greater Manchester economy and confusion from young people on what they need to do to secure a job in their chosen industry.
“Today is the start of the journey of creating a clear and equal pathway for technical education.”
If the plans go ahead the MBacc would start in September 2024 subject to ongoing discussion with central government.