The introduction of a new vocational qualification for young people is good news for small businesses looking to establish a pipeline of new talent without having to make the commitment required to take on an apprentice. Here’s everything you need to do about how they work:
What are T levels?
T Levels are a new, two-year vocational qualification for 16 to 19 year olds. They were introduced in 2020 and provide a technical alternative to A Levels and other post-16 education and training options.
Each T Level is equivalent to 3 A levels and aims to help young people develop the knowledge, attitude and practical skills to thrive in the workplace. They have been designed with the help of more than 220 employers, including Fujitsu, Skanska and GlaxoSmithKline, to ensure they deliver the skills that businesses need.
How do they work?
T Level students spend 80% of the course in the classroom learning workplace skills and the remaining 20% doing an industry placement with a business, where they put these skills into action.
Why have they been introduced?
Employers felt that the existing range of vocational education courses available in the UK was confusing and didn’t always meet their needs. It is hoped that T Levels will provide a simpler solution.
How do T Levels differ to apprenticeships?
T Levels take two years to complete, whereas apprenticeships can last for anything from 1 to 5 years. The balance of classroom learning and practical on-the-job training is also very different – T levels are 80% classroom learning and 20% working whereas for Apprenticeships these proportions are reversed.
How can T levels benefit my business?
Every T Level student will need to complete an industry placement that lasts a minimum of 315 hours, equal to around 45 days. Offering students a placement in your business will enable you to spot talented young people entering your industry and so enable you to build a future pipeline of potential workers with entry-level skills who might fit junior positions or apprenticeships within your business once their course is over.
Are there any other benefits?
For smaller employers, having bright young people around on a day-to-day basis can bring new and interesting ideas into your business.
What will be the impact on my existing staff?
If your business is under-resourced, with staff doing multiple roles and struggling to meet difficult deadlines, then having an industry placement student around to help on projects could be really useful.
T Level placements also create opportunities for your existing staff to act as buddies, coaches or line managers to students, which can help them gain useful management and mentorship skills.
Is the government providing businesses with any financial incentive to provide placements?
As a short-term incentive to encourage businesses to get involved, the government is offering employers a £1000 payment for every student who starts a T Level placement in their business between now and July 2022, with employers able to claim for up to 20 students.
What T level subjects are available?
There are currently ten T Level subjects available – covering the areas of construction, digital and IT, childcare and education, and health – and 13 more will be added over the next couple of years, covering a total of 11 skill areas. Even if your business is not primarily operating in one of these areas, skills such as digital skills can be useful for any kind of business.
Do I need to pay the student while they are doing a placement with my business?
There’s no legal requirement or expectation that students will be paid, as the placement is part of their course. However, a business may choose to pay students at least the National Minimum Wage while they are working.
Can students use T levels to apply to university?
Yes. T Levels will be worth UCAS points – for example, a T Level Distinction is worth the same as three A grades at A level, while a T Level Merit is equal to three B grades at A level – and will be recognised by universities and other education establishments.
What are the longer-term benefits of my business getting involved in this?
As businesses will need to work with local schools and colleges to identify students who would be most suited to a T Level industry placement, this will enable employers to develop a strong ongoing relationship with these educational establishments which may lead to the development of a cost-effective channel for recruiting young talent into the business in future.
As your business establishes a reputation for offering industry placements to T Level students, this will also raise its profile and enhance its brand and reputation, both within the local community and nationally.
How can I find out more details?
Check out the T levels website at www.tlevels.gov.uk