Fewer than one in 10 employers currently offer the kind of work placement the new T levels will require, according to a new survey.
The research, published by City and Guilds and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), found that only 17 per cent of employers feel they have a good understanding of the new qualifications, which are to be introduced from 2020. Almost half rated their understanding as poor – a proportion similar to that of education providers, 54 per cent of whom rate their understanding of T levels as either middling or poor.
Work placements of 45 days are to be a key part of the new qualifications, which the education secretary Damian Hinds said this week would help to create a technical education system in the UK on a par with the best in the world.
'More funding required'
However, according to the survey carried out by AELP Research, currently most employers and training providers offer work placements of one- to two-week duration for 16- to 19-year-olds.
Only 8 per cent of employers provide placements of the duration required for T levels, and 85 per cent of employers and two-thirds of training providers feel that financial support would be necessary to enable employers to offer the required quantity of long-form work placements.
Kirstie Donnelly, managing director at the City & Guilds Group, said: “While it’s encouraging that the government has listened to the concerns of employers and the education sector, and signalled a move towards greater flexibility for work placements in its consultation response, questions still remain around how to ensure enough employers are engaged and ready to take on the number of young people needed.
“Despite supporting T levels in principle, employers and education providers are voicing serious concerns about the implementation of the new qualifications, particularly around their ability to deliver on the promise of a substantial work placement opportunity. Without the proper infrastructure and financial support in place before roll-out, we risk creating cold spots around the country where students simply aren’t able to access a high-quality placement in their chosen area of study.”
Mark Dawe, chief executive of AELP, said: “The findings suggest that work placements will be a real challenge but at least we see a positive attitude among employers towards them, which must not be eroded.
“If we see proper government support, the proposed T-level programmes provide an incredible opportunity for the FE sector to work more closely with employers and have a single conversation with them about apprenticeships, traineeships and T-level work placement. This requires the collective strength of apprenticeship provider experience and classroom-based expertise of FE colleges to pool their knowledge now and collaborate on providing solutions to these work placements together to deliver genuine and sustainable change.”
'Once in a lifetime'
A Department for Education spokesperson said T levels were “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform technical education so it matches the best systems in the world”. “We make no apologies for setting an ambitious timetable to ensure young people have more choice, more opportunities to succeed and fulfil their potential," the spokesperson added.
“We have worked with over 200 employers to design the T-level content and have run pilots with over 2,000 young people to trial T-level-style work placements.
“We continue to work with businesses, employers, and post 16 education providers to develop the first three T levels, which will be taught from 2020 and a further 22 being phased in following that.”