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T-Levels are a brand new and vital secondary education scheme, which is set to be introduced between 2020 and 2022 in select colleges/schools for students aged 16 – 18 years old – but how important will they be for students, how do employers get involved and what are the obligations employers will have?

T-Levels are designed to sit alongside A-Levels and Apprenticeships, with their core aim to be to better educate, prepare and train the next generation of workers in Technical or Skilled subjects. T-Levels will be the equivalent of 3 A Levels, but will be a mix of technical and theoretic classroom learning and on-the-job training, similar to an apprenticeship.

Where apprenticeships are more focused on pure on-the-job training over years with one employer, coupled with supportive classroom learning, T-Levels are much more balanced: they are designed to introduce students to a wider range of industry theory, teaching and support, with a smaller employer commitment of only 45 days of actual student work experience.

T-Levels, however, will be created and based on the same standards as apprenticeships, and will be launched by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. Including a work placement, T-Levels will consist of a total of 1800 hours learning over 2 years. This is a significant increase on current Technical Education learning and will provide a hugely improved support system for technical students.

T-Levels subjects aim to be launched in 3 waves, initially in select colleges and schools, starting in 2020. The first wave of T-Level subjects will be Digital Production and Design (digital industries); Design, Surveying and Planning (construction); and Education (education and childcare).

In 2021, this will increase to health science, health care, building and onsite construction and digital support and services, and in 2022 this will increase further to creative industries, agriculture, environmental management, business management, legal, finance, hospitality, hair and beauty and animal care.

So, how does this affect education providers and employers in Somerset?

As well as the benefits of getting more young people into work places, T-Levels do not require employers to pay the students – this vastly differs from apprenticeships, and as the vast proportion of businesses in Somerset are SME’s, with wage squeezes, record employment, and Brexit upcoming, that additional financial “burden” could be the difference between getting involved in the scheme and not.

There is also an oft reported worry from employers that without the long term commitment an apprenticeship offers there will not be enough work for the student, or that the wrong type of work will be offered, and that rigorous preparation, coupled with complete employer buy-in to the scheme, has to be set in stone. Is 45 days enough to fully train, brief and establish a theoretical knowledge of digital design? Will it be enough to develop the levels of empathy, let alone the skill, needed to start a career in Care?

Much guidance, and attributed funding and training, is still to be given to the first schools who will deliver T-Levels (trials are ongoing!), however, it can’t be denied that the introduction of T-Levels will be one of the biggest shake ups to education in a generation and will be a vital tool in better training and preparing the students of tomorrow.