With only two years to go until T Levels become part of the education curriculum, new research published today by City & Guilds and AELP reveals that just 17 per cent of UK employers feel that they have a good understanding of the new qualifications, with almost half (49 per cent) rating their understanding as poor. In addition, 54 per cent of education providers rate their understanding of T Levels as either middling or poor.
Kirstie Donnelly, Managing Director at the City & Guilds Group, commented:
“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.”
A central plank of the T Level programme is a mandatory work placement of 45 days. Currently, most employers (71 per cent) and training providers (74 per cent) offer work placements of one to two-week duration for 16-19-year-olds. Only 8 per cent of employers provide placements of the duration required for T Levels, meaning a huge step change will be required to accommodate the placements in industry.
In addition, there will need to be a significant increase in the number of work placement students employers take, with an estimated 180,000 placements needed per year.
Encouragingly, most employers show support for this valuable part of the new qualification, with almost three quarters (74 per cent) of those surveyed saying they are willing to play a greater role in helping students apply their learning in the workplace setting. However, both employers and training providers express concerns around the implementation of the work placements.
John Falder, Managing Director of Manchester based HMG Paints Ltd, added:
“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.”
The majority of both employers (85 per cent) and training providers (66 per cent) felt that financial support would be necessary to enable employers to offer the required quantity of long form work placements, to support learner access and to support learning providers.
Mark Dawe, Chief Executive of AELP, commented:
“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.”
More than two thirds of training providers (67 per cent) and over a third of employers (40 per cent) agree that 45-60-day placements would be fit-for-purpose for most occupations, but believe a degree of flexibility will be required in implementing the programme to account for sector, company and regional variations.
Employers (83 per cent) and training providers (66 per cent) agree that a mandatory content framework should be developed for the work placements to ensure consistency and quality. And nine in ten employers state a financial incentive would be needed to help deliver the quantity of placements required.