The figures show an extra 21,000 19-year-olds achieved Level 2 qualifications (equivalent to 5 good GSCEs) in 2005 than in the previous year. This represents a rise of 3%, a year earlier than the Government's PSA target.
Levels or equivalent) -up to nearly 46%, or a 3.5% rise from 2004.
Qualifications earned by adults are also on the rise with 464,000 more qualified to Level 2 or higher than 12 months ago. The figures show the Government is on course to meet the target of 1 million adults with Level 2 qualification by 2006, with an increase of over 841,000 passing their exams since Autumn 2002.
Vocational qualifications are also rising with more than 500,000 National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) awarded in 2005, more than any other year.
Skills Minister Phil Hope welcomed today's findings, adding that more work was needed to raise UK skills to compete on a world stage. He said:
'These figures demonstrate that we are making the progress needed to raise skills levels in this country. The increased support being given to students by schools, colleges and personal advisers is helping young people make the education choices that are right for them.
'The growth in Level 2 qualifications shows that more young people recognise the importance of staying in education and achieving.
'But we are not complacent. We know there is more to do and our 14-19 reforms will ensure that we can develop an education system where all young people can be motivated to learn, to progress in education and enter the workplace.
'As well as improving secondary education we will continue to ensure that all adults have the skills they need for work. We still lag behind other countries in our skills levels, but these figures show a welcome rise in attainment. We need to build on this progress to secure the training which adults and employers need to succeed.'
1. The Statistical First Releases (SFRs) published 23 February 2006
Level 2 and 3 Attainment by Young People in England Measured Using Matched Administrative Data: Attainment by Age 19 in 2005
The Level of Highest Qualification Held by Young People and Adults:
Vocational Qualifications in the UK: 2004/05 http:www.dfes.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000638/index.shtml
2. The SFRs report against two PSA targets; Adults - reduce by at least 40% the number of adults in the workforce who lack NVQ 2 or equivalent qualifications by 2010; working towards this, one million adults in the workforce to achieve level 2 between
2003 and 2006 (also adopted by the LSC).
Young People - increase the proportion of 19 year olds who achieve at least level 2 by three percentage pointsbetween 2004 and 2006, and a further two percentage points between 2006 and 2008, and increase the proportion of young people who achieve level 3.
3. The SFR Vocational Qualifications in the UK 2004/05 shows record levels of awards of vocational qualifications. Over 5.5 million NVQs (and SVQs) have now been awarded since their introduction. Last year saw the highest number of NVQs awarded - 574,000.