T Levels: what are they and how they can benefit SME employers

T Levels: what are they and how they can benefit SME employers

24 Aug    Finance News, In Business

Last week we saw the second cohort of T Level students receive their T Level results. Introduced in 2020, these new qualifications are giving students the workplace skills they need to succeed.

Broadly equivalent to three A levels, the two-year technical course enables young people to gain the qualification they need to go on to study at university, do an apprenticeship or get a job. The course is made up of 80 per cent classroom-based study and 20 per cent industry placement with an employer, for a minimum of 315 hours. The industry placement is invaluable as it gives young people real world experience of their chosen sector, supports them to develop their transferable stills, and build their professional network, while directly supporting the employer or business they are completing their industry placement with. But it’s not only young people that benefit from this relatively new qualification.

In just three years we have seen countless examples of students having a direct positive impact on the business where they are completing their industry placement, offering new perspectives and bringing new ideas into the workplace. Ultimately, these students are the workforce of the future and as a by-product of completing their industry placement they are helping to plug skills gaps in a variety of sectors and strengthening the UK’s case for improved productivity.

Recruitment is a challenge for many businesses across the board at the moment – in fact, according to a recent survey from the Skills for Life campaign, more than a third of SMEs (36%) in England said they were most concerned about staffing challenges in 2023. Offering a T Level industry placement gives businesses early access to bright young people entering the market and the opportunity to develop a workforce for the future.

Data shows that more than a quarter (27%) of SMEs want to hire from broad education routes, including T Levels students. The T Level Ambassador Network offers a space for employers, education providers, and students to build connections and, together, inspire future generations of T Level students. At its core, it offers a platform for dedicated employers to advocate for the benefits of technical education in the business community and celebrate the achievements of T Level students across the country.

As Vice Chair of the T Level Ambassador Network, I get the pleasure of meeting students every single day, to find out how they’re getting on and learn about the positive impact T Levels have had on their professional and personal development. Two such students are brothers, John and James Lack, from Lincoln.

Both John and James signed up to study a T Level post GCSEs – John was in fact in the first cohort of T Level student in 2020, jumping on the opportunity of this new education route to build a career that he loves.

Speaking about their experiences, John said: “I first found out about T Levels after attending an open evening at Barnsley College in October 2019. It was a new qualification then – no one had heard about it, so it felt like a bit of a risk instead of going down the traditional A Levels or Apprenticeship routes.

“Looking back, it’s a risk I’m so glad I took. My work placement was with Willmott Dixon Interiors in Leeds, which provided me with invaluable hands-on experience, on-site and in the office. I learned how to use modern construction technologies, how the business operates, as well as learning about the wider construction industry and how it works. During my time there, I had a very supportive mentor, Brian Cole, who made sure I felt supported the entire time.

“I am now studying at Lincoln University where I’m in the first year of my Architecture, Science and Technology degree. My T Level has provided me with a really solid foundation of skills that I’m continuing to use every day at university. Architecture and construction are my passions, and I can’t wait to continue building on these skills over the coming years.”

James, on the other hand, is currently studying his T Level which is in Digital Support Services at Barnsley College. James says: “I always knew I wanted to do something different after GSCEs. I wanted to do something I was passionate about, and as someone that loves computing and IT, the Digital Support Services T Level was the perfect fit.

“I’m currently based at a local manufacturing company called Distinction Doors. I’m based in their IT department and every day I get hands-on experience of what it is to be like in the working world. They are keen to develop my skills and ensure I understand all aspects of my role, which is great. I feel really supported and it’s good to know they find my work useful.”

Both John and James have since gone on to join the T Level Ambassador Network, sharing their stories to inspire the next generation of students.

To find out more about T Levels, simply search ‘Skills Revolution’ today or visit this website.

Alternatively, to find out more about joining the T Level Ambassador Network, search ‘Becoming a T Level Ambassador’ on GOV.UK.

You can hear more about the world of T Levels in the latest episode of the Business Matters’ In Conversation’ podcast, where I’ll be speaking with Richard Alvin, and joined by brothers, John and James Lack.


Daniel Brett

Daniel Brett is Vice Chair of the T Level Ambassador Network. He is an experienced executive leader, who throughout his career so far, has held a variety of roles in educational and professional settings, include Primary, Secondary, Further (General and Specialist) and Higher Education. He has also held positions pertinent to his work in education, such as roles within Pearson Education Ltd, the Association of Colleges (AoC and AoC Sport), two positions within the Hull and East Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP ].

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