As we grapple with the national problem of productivity and skills, we find ourselves on the threshold of a hugely exciting era for technical education.
Today, we change our name to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to reflect the new responsibilities that we are taking on for the T-level programme.
The minister and the Department for Education will retain control over future policy decisions for T levels in much the same way as they have with apprenticeships.
The institute will now become responsible for approving the content for all T levels and issuing contracts to awarding organisations to develop the qualifications, ready for providers to teach at colleges and schools throughout England.
Same occupational maps as apprenticeships
We will do this using the same approvals system that has already produced impressive results for apprenticeships.
For apprenticeships, groups of employers known as trailblazers decide what knowledge, skills and behaviours people should develop and then design tailored end-point assessment plans to ensure that apprentices are competent in the occupation.
These go through a rigorous approvals process by our route panels of industry experts, representing the 15 key sectors.
Using the same occupational maps, T-level panels do a similar job to trailblazers, identifying what core and specialist learning content is required, drawing upon the existing apprenticeship standards.
T-level responsibilities 'make sense'
25 T levels are planned to be delivered from 2020 onwards and the T level panels are currently working to deliver the content for these in areas including digital; engineering and manufacturing; agriculture and legal; and finance and accountancy.
The close relationship between apprenticeships and T levels is key, with the latter building on the high-quality apprenticeship standards that are in place.
And in the same way that we are responsible for ensuring the quality of all apprenticeship end-point assessments, we will similarly assure the quality of T levels through management of the contracts. It, therefore, makes sense for the institute to assume these wider responsibilities, as reflected in our new name.
We are about to let the contracts for the first wave of three T levels set to be taught in classrooms across the country from September 2020. These cover the education, construction and digital routes.
'More emphasis on knowledge'
At the same time, preparations are underway for wave two which will be delivered from September 2021. These T levels will offer additional qualifications in the digital and construction routes plus a new set for the health and science route.
There will naturally be more emphasis on knowledge and theory with T levels than apprenticeships. But they will also have a strong vocational element, including a high-quality industry placement that will take at least 45-days of the course and prepare students for employment in an occupation, further vocational training at a higher level and entry into university.
We are well-resourced to deliver our additional responsibilities. Looking back six months there were 85 people at the institute. There are now close to 150 and we should be nearer to two hundred people by the end of this year.
We’re on a clear growth path and I am looking forward to the exciting times ahead.
'Rigorous employer-focussed approach'
For apprenticeships, we are rapidly approaching 400 approved standards and are moving to a point where there will be broadly enough in place to cover the country’s skills gaps. Our emphasis will then shift toward reviewing existing apprenticeships to keep them up to scratch.
We’re seeing impressive growth in starts on standards and receiving positive feedback on the quality they deliver. A similar rigorous employer-focused approach to developing T levels will also pay dividends.
Employers who were previously concerned that they couldn’t find enough people with the right skills will soon have two high quality and inter-related training routes to recruit and develop the people they need. T levels will play a significant part in closing this gap over the coming decades.
I think that is a really exciting prospect for this country.
Sir Gerry Berragan is the chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education