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Brexit ‘could scupper work placements for youngsters’

Almost two-thirds of manufacturers (65 per cent) have not heard of T levels, a survey by Make UK found

Make UK has surveyed manufacturers about T levels

Manufacturers fear Brexit could leave them without the capacity to deliver the longer work placements required for T-level students.

The survey by Make UK, the organisation that represents manufacturers and was formerly known as the Engineering Employers' Federation, also shows that manufacturers are willing to step up and offer work placements with one third prepared to offer them in their current form and a further fifth (21 per cent) prepared to do so if they were more flexible.

However, 60 per cent of companies who responded feared not having the capacity to manage work placements, because of external concerns like Brexit. Furthermore, two-fifths of companies are unaware of what is required of them when it comes to providing work placements.


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'Avoiding mistakes of the apprenticeship levy'

Verity Davidge, head of education and skills policy at Make UK, said for too long, vocational education has remained in the shadows of academic learning. She added: “Industry supports the introduction of T levels which have the potential to boost technical education and create a credible vocational education route for young people and deliver the practical and technical skills industry so desperately needs.

“However, the introduction of T levels is another fundamental change to our education system which has been subject to constant chop and change, often leaving employers bemused. Currently, there is a worrying lack of awareness amongst industry with low levels of knowledge even amongst those who have heard of them.

“To avoid a sense of déjà vu with the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, which was rushed in without proper consultation, the government must continue to work more closely with business groups to boost significantly awareness throughout industry. The programme is at risk of failing if employers aren’t aware or on board, particularly when it comes to offering mandatory work placements.”

In response, Make UK is urging the government to step up efforts to raise the profile of T levels throughout industry. They are also requesting the government:

  • Make placements flexible so as to increase their take up. This could be done by using training academies that replicate the real world of work to deliver them whilst not having to physically be on a shop floor.
  • Allow T level students to undertake their placement with more than one employer. This will encourage greater take up among SMEs unable to deliver a three-month placement and give learners greater exposure to wider industry.
  • Increase support for employers to deliver placements by matching funding support for providers to employers to encourage take-up of placements across all sectors and sizes.
  • Include a “work readiness” module to T levels to ensure that young people are better prepared before undertaking their placement with an employer.
  • Take steps to simplify T levels, especially around grading. This would help secure employer buy-in as well as make the qualification more attractive to the next generation.
  • Take greater action to get universities to accept T level students. This would significantly increase the attractiveness of T levels and vocational learners.

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