Employers and education providers are not prepared for the impact of T Levels

With T Levels kicking in as of 2020, research by City & Guilds and AELP show that both education providers and employers are not prepared for this shift

We’re just two years away from T Levels becoming part of the curriculum in the UK, but City & Guilds and AELP have published research which shows that only 17% of UK employers feel they have a good understanding of these new qualifications, and just under half – 49% – rate their knowledge of it as poor. More worrying still, 54% of education providers categorise their own understanding of T Levels as middling or poor.

A major element of the T Level programme is a mandatory work placement of 45 days; currently, 71% of employers and 74% of training providers only offer work placements of one-to-two weeks for 16-19-year-olds. Just 8% of employers actually provide the time frame required by the T Levels, so there will need to be a huge shift not just in ability to accommodate the duration of the work experience, but the number of students employers take on.

MD at City & Guilds Group, Kirstie Donnelly, commented on the research:

“Skills gaps and skills shortages are severely hampering UK productivity and T Levels have the potential to help solve these, providing young people with high-quality technical education to both improve their employability and create a better-skilled workforce.

“While it’s encouraging that the government has listened to the concerns of employers and the education sector and signalled a move towards greater flexibility for work placements in its consultation response, questions still remain around how to ensure enough employers are engaged and ready to take on the number of young people needed.

“Despite supporting T Levels in principle, employers and education providers are voicing serious concerns about the implementation of the new qualifications, particularly around their ability to deliver on the promise of a substantial work placement opportunity. Without the proper infrastructure and financial support in place before roll-out, we risk creating cold spots around the country where students simply aren’t able to access a high-quality placement in their chosen area of study.

“Following a week where the Department for Education itself expressed concerns about the speed of implementation, we are calling on the government to learn lessons from the past and work with employers and the education sector more closely to get the timing and execution of these vital new qualifications right.”

Most employers, thankfully, do show support for the T Levels, with 74% of respondents indicating they wish to play a greater role in helping students apply their learning in a workplace setting.

John Falder, MD of HMG Paints Ltd., commented:

“On the whole, employers tend to be far too quick to dismiss young people as not having the right behaviours and skills to enter the workplace. But, if implemented and used in the right way, T Levels present a huge opportunity to bridge that gap, helping both develop and support the next generation workforce and provide employers with a stream of work-ready young people.

Mark Dawe, Chief Executive of AELP, added: “The findings suggest that work placements will be a real challenge, but at least we see a positive attitude among employers towards them which must not be eroded.

“If we see proper government support, the proposed T Level programmes provide an incredible opportunity for the FE sector to work more closely with employers and have a single conversation with them about apprenticeships, traineeships and T Level work placement. This requires the collective strength of apprenticeship provider experience and classroom-based expertise of FE colleges to pool their knowledge now and collaborate on providing solutions to these work placements together to deliver genuine and sustainable change.”

While 67% of training providers and 40% of employers do believe 45-60-day placements should be feasible for most occupations, they also think a degree of flexibility will be needed depending on a wide variety of factors. 83% of employers and 66% of training providers also believe a mandatory content framework should be developed to ensure consistency and quality, and nine in 10 employers say a financial incentive would be required to enable the numbers of placements needed.

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