T-Levels: Getting it Right
The Government has announced that the new technical qualifications - T-Levels - will be introduced into the education system by 2022. The aim of these qualifications is to simplify vocational training in England.
T-Levels: What are they?
T-Levels aim to bring a step change in technical education, driving a national system that will meet the needs of learners and employers. Chancellor Philip Hammond has supported their introduction, and is keen to ensure that vocational learning reaches an equal footing with academic learning.
The courses are aimed at 16-19 year olds as an alternative to A-Levels and university, and will enable young people to study in 15 key sectors that have been identified as crucial for post-Brexit Britain. These include construction, engineering & manufacturing and social care (full list here).
How will they work?
All T-Levels build from core content (functional and transferable skills) before students specialise in one of the above vocational routes. Those studying T-Levels will complete 900 hours of learning per year. This includes a three-month work placement to help them apply their learning in the workplace and support their job-readiness.
T-Levels are likely to be taught by colleges and independent learning providers, with funding of around £500m per year. Providers will have to meet set criteria in order to be considered, and proposed Institutes of Technology will specialise in higher-level STEM technical skills at Levels 4 and above.
Government is consulting on the first three T-Levels phased in (digital, construction, education and childcare) this year, with a view to delivery commencing in 2020; the Government aims to make all T-Levels available to learners by 2022.
What do they need to do to be successful?
In principle, T-Levels will be a welcome addition to the vocational learning portfolio. However, there are some key areas to consider to ensure the new qualifications deliver the intended outcomes for learners and employers:
- Provision of work placements:
The availability of work placements is crucial, and arguably the most complex piece of the puzzle to facilitate. It is essential that, when rolling out T-Levels, the Government provides mechanisms to enable providers to identify suitable placements with employers. Learners should have access to high-quality work experience opportunities where they're properly supported.
- Ensuring parity for learners with weaker functional skills:
Learners who need to improve their English and maths skills should be able to do so while receiving the same amount of technical training as their peers. If this doesn't happen - and they have less time to build technical skills - this will put them at a disadvantage and impact on their ability to progress
- Importance of Level 2 as an entry point:
Level 2 is an important entry point for many learners who follow a vocational pathway. Indeed, many occupations set Level 2 as a baseline standard, no matter the prior learning. As such, Level 2 qualifications should be considered as having equal value within the T-Levels portfolio, rather than merely as progression vehicles towards level three. This will help to maximise inclusion and social mobility outcomes for learners.