The first 52 colleges and post-16 providers to teach the new T Levels were named this week, as education secretary Damian Hinds set out plans for an alternative to A levels for more practically minded students.
“T Levels provide a high-quality, technical alternative to A levels ensuring thousands of people across the country have the skills we need to compete globally – a vital part of our modern industrial strategy,” he said.
T level course content is determined by a panel of employer-representatives and the courses include three-month industry placements to give young people work experience. Standards will be assured by Ofqual and the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA).
However, the Federation of Master Builders has warned that we should not expect too much from a young person with a T level in construction.
Chief executive Brian Berry said: “The idea that a student who has completed a T Level in bricklaying is able to call themselves a qualified bricklayer is not credible. The government must be realistic about how much can be achieved in two years of largely college-based learning. Although T Levels include a three-month work placement, when the rest of the individual’s knowledge and skills are acquired in the classroom, in construction they will need more time onsite, post-T Level, before they can and should describe themselves as being qualified in that trade. Small and medium-sized construction firms, which do the bulk of training in our industry, would rather view T Levels as a rich pool of talent through which to find apprentices.”
M Berry added: “More positively, the government has listened to the concerns of the construction industry and stated its intention to make work placements as flexible as possible. In construction, work placements are not popular or common so persuading sufficient numbers of employers to offer these opportunities will be challenging. The government being open to the three-month placement being achieved through more than one employer is therefore vital. However, to ensure work placements are as attractive as possible, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) should consider offering financial incentives to employers through CITB Grant. We know, for example, that a typical construction SME is likely to shell out an additional £500 for their Employers’ Liability insurance because of having a young person onsite for three months. This is on top of the resource needed to closely supervise that young person. If employers can be financially incentivised somehow, it would be helpful.”
He concluded: “If implemented properly, T Levels have the potential to provide parity of esteem between vocational and academic education. Although there are challenges regarding the implementation of T Levels, we are committed to working with the government constructively to overcome those challenges. If the UK is to increase its productivity, we need more young people, and their parents and teachers, to recognise the value of a career in construction. With Brexit just around the corner, this has never been so important.”