'Brand all non-academic qualifications as T levels'

A new report published by NOCN and City & Guilds group sets out 13 recommendations to address the 'productivity puzzle'

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All qualifications that aren’t "academic" should be branded as T levels, according to a new report released today. 

The report, Close the Gap – Proposing a map for UK Technical & Skills Education to 2024 by City & Guilds, and awarding and assessment organisation NOCN calls on government, employers, and colleges to address the productivity puzzle’ to ensure that the UK can face global competitiveness and technological advances.


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It predicts that, in the next five to 10 years, England’s skills gap will grow, and there will be a “chronic shortage of available qualified personnel for the growing number of professional, scientific and technical jobs that a vibrant, dynamic economy will need.” The report calls these jobs the “missing middle”. 

Qualification delivery should be devolved to the local level, and there should be a "national skills curriculum and standards" should be established. The authors say that they do not recommend starting again – but instead propose building on the progress that’s been made already. 

A country facing 'seismic shifts'

Graham Hasting-Evens, NOCN’s chief executive said: “NOCN and City & Guilds are hugely concerned that the country faces seismic shifts of displaced employment, underemployment and rising inequality as a result – with potentially ruinous consequences for the economy, government spending and social cohesion."

Patrick Craven, City & Guilds policy director, said: “This makes accessible education, learning and training for everyone absolutely paramount – and an all-embracing TVET system will ensure this is delivered, for the economic stability and sustainable, inclusive growth that must follow."

The recommendations in full  

  1. Establish a single national vision and strategy for skills at all ages.
  2. Adopt measures of success for the implementation of the strategy that relate directly to progress towards better matching the skills of the workforce with those of the economy.
  3. Improve outcomes in the education system for young people, making them work-ready and aligned to the needs of the future economy.
  4. Invest in adult skills. 
  5. Establish a simple, integrated, stable, trusted and agile skills development system as the vehicle to implement the national strategy. This should be based upon international best practice. 
  6. Retain broader provision for young people aged 16 to 19, in addition to A and T levels. Present foundation qualifications or awards at level 1 in a single coherent offer, to build work readiness and a platform for further learning. Progression qualifications at level 2 should be a legitimate goal for some sectors and a potential step into employment or apprenticeships for a number of occupational routes.
  7. Establish a full set of sector-based "national skills curriculum and standards", building on the work to date, which match the economy’s ongoing requirements and which do not put specialisation too early. 
  8. Establish component-based apprenticeships and technical qualifications structured as modularised learning and accreditation, which will facilitate easy adult upskilling and technological updating. 
  9. Badge all qualifications that are not academic as T levels or Higher T levels above level 3 and stick to this brand.
  10. Coherently manage the capacity and number of organisations that support the TVET system, such as independent training providers, further education colleges, awarding organisations and end-point assessment organisations. This must include facilitating investment in tutors, assessors and new equipment. 
  11. Increase state investment in skills above the rate of inflation (possibly 20 per cent per annum) to bring FE and HE expenditure into line over a sustainable and manageable period of time. 

    The extra money would cover the needed legacy correction, basic digital skills, qualifications and apprenticeships for 16–19-year-olds and the first level 3 qualification. Significantly increase funding rates including those for functional skills. For adult upskilling above level 3, ration the apprenticeship levy along economic priorities.

    In addition, it should introduce, as either a separate pot or an extension of the existing levy, an ‘upskilling levy fund’, which would be similar in size. Streamline the operation of the levy and make it much more flexible.
  12. Delegate the delivery to the local level, where there should be freedom to match funding against the priorities of the area and the sectors that operate within it. All parts of England should have the same delivery powers and access to funding. 
  13. Rationalise the number of regulatory and quality control organisations to create a single ‘champion’ for the TVET system – initially within the existing legislative framework. This could be based on adapting the role of the Institute for Apprenticeship and Technical Education. It should be done in a way that establishes clear ‘ownership’ by employers, employees and their representatives – as well as engaging the contributions from the providers in each sector – whilst ensuring accountability for any state funding.

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