The BBC has withdrawn plans to offer work placements for students taking T levels, in the latest blow for the government’s flagship new technical qualifications.
Last May, education secretary Damian Hinds overruled concerns raised by the DfE's permanent secretary about the time scale for implementing new qualifications. In July, skills minister Anne Milton said that, as a parent, she would advise her children to hold off on the flagship qualifications.
Now it has transpired that the BBC, which with more than 20,000 employees is one of the biggest public sector employers in the UK, had planned to offer industrial placements for students taking the T level in digital – one of the first wave of the qualifications due to be introduced in 2020 – as part of a pilot programme.
But an email seen by Tes reveals that the corporation has decided to withdraw. It states that the “need, dependencies and risks associated with having under 18s in our workforce” are “in our view significant and costly for this specific pilot”.
'Observe the outcomes and findings'
Tes understands the BBC was involved in phase one of the pilot, which involved offering placements for four students in a software development team within the BBC design and engineering department based in Salford (pictured), but will not take part in phase two.
The email adds: “The consensus by our director is that the BBC will withdraw from the phase two pilot at this time and observe the outcomes and findings other participating employers identify, after which we will review our position.”
Industry placements lasting for at least 45 days are a compulsory part of the new T levels. In June, the DfE’s director of professional and technical education, Jennifer Coupland, said that industry placement pilots were taking place at 21 providers across England.
She told the Association of Employment and Learning Providers’ National Conference in London: “We know this will be hard to deliver. We are starting early and we have launched the industry placement pilot scheme which is currently testing different models and approaches to delivering T level placements.”
Last month, a Department for Education-commissioned report by the Learning and Work Institute on employer engagement and capacity to support T-level industry placements found employers expected learning providers to act as matchmakers between students and appropriate industry placements.
Some employers who were already offering work-based learning feared an influx of T-level learners might lead to them reaching a “saturation point” in the amount of staff time they could spare on supporting learners.
The government has set aside £74 million in "capacity development funding" to make sure the infrastructure is in place to deliver the work placement programme.
Placements 'meaningful and substantial'
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We know that not all businesses will want to offer industry placements for young people but we have been working with over 1,000 employers to pilot T levels-style placements to support the successful roll-out of T levels from 2020.
“Many businesses have already told us said that the inclusion of a meaningful and substantial industry placement will make sure learners are better prepared and motivated for work. To support these placements we are investing nearly £60 million in 2018-19 – with further funding to come – so that education providers and employers can work together to deliver them. We will continue to work closely with employers to explore ways to make sure they are able to offer placements from 2020.”