What are T levels & how could they impact FE

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The government recently announced that technical qualifications, known as T-Levels, will be phased into the education system between 2018 and 2022. Although they were first mentioned in 2015, their introduction has been pushed back and only now look likely to begin formal rollout.

These qualifications were first set to make it easier for young people to take technical and vocational routes to their chosen careers, and are hoped to rectify the jobs shortages in a number of key sectors. Here, we’ll take a look at what the T Levels are, where they will fit into the curriculum for students, and what the benefits are.

Courses are aimed at 16-19 year olds and have a £500m annual investment

The courses, aimed at 16-19 year olds as an alternative to university, will also see a 50 percent increase in the number of learning hours, “including a high quality work placement for each student”, which will equal around 900 hours of vocational training per year. Students will do a three-month work placement as part of their course. Hammond also announced that once the new courses were fully implemented, T Levels would receive £500m in funding each year to ensure they are well equipped to allow students to thrive.

Students can take T Levels at colleges or A Levels at schools

While some courses may be offered in schools, it’s more likely that T Levels will be taken in colleges due to the technical aspect of the training. They will be part of the FE sector, and are similar to apprenticeships in the sense that students will benefit from “high-quality industry work placements”. According to the Treasury, the aim is to ensure that “when young people leave college they have the skills, knowledge and expertise that employers want”.

The FE sector has responded positively to the addition of T Levels, and the director-general of the CBI (Confederation of British Industries), Carolyn Fairbairn, said: “Increasing the number of teaching hours for technical subjects is fundamental to delivering world-class training for our young people in every part of the UK. There has never been a more important time to address the UK’s skills shortages.”

T Levels will introduce 15 new courses to replace 13,000 different qualifications

As reported by The Guardian, the budget document from Philip Hammond notest: “England’s technical education system is confusing for students, with around 13,000 qualifications available - many of them of little value.”

The current system includes 13,000 different qualifications that students can pick from. While many of these courses were created with the intention of improving job opportunities and the economy, having such as range has actually meant that higher education students are very splintered in terms of the course teaching they receive. T Levels aim to create clarity and consistency for technical students.

The 15 new T Level courses will include:

  • Agriculture, Environmental, and Animal Care
  • Business and Administration
  • Catering and Hospitality
  • Childcare and Education
  • Construction
  • Creative and Design
  • Digital
  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Hair and Beauty
  • Health and Science
  • Legal, Finance, and Accounting
  • Protective Services
  • Sales, Marketing, and Procurement
  • Social Care
  • Transport and Logistics

Some of these courses will be broader than others, to cover a range of occupational areas as part of the ‘Post-16 Skills’ plan. However, it is still unknown how many qualifications there will be, as some of the sectors can be broken down further. For example, ‘Digital’ can cover IT support and services, software and applications design and development, and data and digital business services. Meanwhile, the ‘Creative and Design’ sector can cover occupations from furniture maker to journalist, meaning it will likely be split even further.

T Levels can lessen the skills gap in many key industries

There are many industries that are suffering from a skills gap, mainly in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) industries. While these industries have relied on apprenticeships, the UK Commissions for Employment and Skills found that 43 percent of vacancies are hard to fill, due to a shortage of applicants with the required skills and experience. However, the courses included in T Levels will be able to cover these sectors and should help lessen the skills shortage in STEM industries.


Some of the industries with the biggest skills gaps are engineering, construction, and digital, which all fall under STEM. However, the T Levels offer dedicated courses to these sectors and can train students for specific jobs in the industries to lessen the skills shortage.

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