New ‘T- Levels’ are to be developed between now and 2022, designed to give technical subjects, such as engineering and construction, equal status alongside A-Levels.
The £500 million boost to develop the new vocational qualifications was announced by Chancellor for the Exchequer Phillip Hammond in his budget statement on 8 March. Aiming to tackle the UK’s poor productivity, Hammond said that backing vocational training would support the development of a more prosperous and inclusive society.
Alongside this, Hammond also announced £300 million to support 1,000 new PhD places in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.
it is hoped that by developing a technical parallel to academic A-Levels, students wishing to pursue a vocational route will not be pressured into changing their mind by parents, as T-Levels will hold as much respect with employers as academic qualifications.
Tacking The Skills Shortage
Tony Howard, Training Director at BESA, welcomed the move, saying it would help to underpin the work the Association is doing to help building engineering employers address skills shortages by developing a range of new Trailblazer apprenticeships in England, while also driving forward training standards across the rest of the UK.
“T-Levels fit neatly with the government’s ongoing support for Trailblazer apprenticeships, and will provide further help in developing the stream of new talent coming into STEM professions. Apprenticeships are a natural progression from T-Levels,” said Mr Howard.
He further added that apprenticeships delivered proven business benefits to employers, quoting research carried out by BESA’s training department, which revealed that 70% of employers believe their productivity, and therefore business growth, is improved by taking on apprenticeships.
“As the UK-wide industry body for skills and training, BESA is reflecting this growing momentum behind vocational training by working with employers to bring together and represent the needs of our industry, enabling quality apprenticships, skills and training to support their businesses,” continued Mr Howard.
T-Levels have also received support from the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) and the Federation of Master Builders.
BMF managing director, John Newcomb, said if T-Levels helped to redress the parity of esteem between academic and vocational training, then it was good news:
“Construction firms, large and small, face real difficultly attracting new faces. Our industry is not seen by young people as a long-term career option – especially by young women. Merchanting provides fantastic career opportunities for young people and the BMF is keen to persuade parents that university is not always the right choice for their children.”
Brian Ferry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, added:
“T-Levels could be the answer if they genuinely rival A-Levels in the eyes of parents, teachers and young people.”