As organisations continue to struggle to access the skills they need, more employers are focusing on upskilling their existing employees, offering more apprenticeships and looking outside of their traditional talent pools. Providing a T Level industry placement is a way to build your talent pipeline, while at the same time offering valuable mentoring opportunities for existing staff and supporting young people build the employability and job-specific skills they need to succeed 

In recognition of financial barriers, alongside a shift to hybrid working in many office environments, the UK Government has recently announced additional support and flexibilities to allow more employers to take advantage of this opportunity

What are T Levels?  

The skills and capabilities of the workforce are vital to economic sustainability and growth. Yet as we have previously noted, while the UK has a high proportion of degree-qualified individuals, there is a substantial gap to other countries in intermediate technical skills, with the OECD ranking the UK 24th out of 33 nations. This has serious implications for productivity, as the UK faces a chronic shortage of technician-level skills 

To help address this shortage, the government has reformed intermediate technical qualifications in England, introducing a new Level 3 technical qualifications to sit alongside A Levels. T Levels are employer-designed programmes and take two years to complete, combining classroom learning and an industry placement lasting at least 45 days. The first T Levels started in 2020 and all 23 routes should be available later this year.   

What new support and flexibilities are available for employers? 

We have previously argued that given the shift to hybrid working arrangements, particularly in office-based environments, the temporary flexibilities introduced during the pandemic that allowed elements of the qualification to be carried out remotely should be extended. And the employers we surveyed agreed: a higher proportion of employers believe that, in future, placements should be able to be delivered both online and in person (39%) compared with those who think that placements should be delivered only in person (28%). Therefore we welcome recent announcements that for certain subjects, up to a fifth of the industry placement hours can be delivered remotely, allow more employers to take advantage of the opportunity to build their future workforces and develop the technical skills they need to grow.   

Our recent research also showed that only one in five employers reported that they would not face any cost-related barriers to hosting an industry placement student. The survey results found that the two biggest cost-related barriers facing employers are investment in staff time to supervise and mentor students, and investment in time to understand, plan and prepare to host a placement with a T Level provider.  

In recognition of this, the government recently announced an extension of the Employer Support Fund. This is a temporary capacity building fund and is available for students who start a placement between 1 April 2023 and 31 March 2024, and can be used to support administrative, training and tangible (ie equipment, insurance, transport) costs. Funding may be claimed for every student that employers offer a placement to, up to a maximum amount of funding of £25,000, with no limit on the amount that can be claimed for any one student.  

T Levels can play a valuable role in helping plug the UK’s chronic shortage of technical level skills, as well as addressing employer concerns on the work-readiness of young people, by providing both the knowledge and technical skills needed, but also the broader employability skills gained through real experience of the workplace. Hopefully, additional capacity to deliver part of the placements remotely (in some cases), can help turbo charge employer engagement in these new qualifications.     

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About the author

Lizzie Crowley, Senior Policy Adviser - Skills

Lizzie is a policy and research professional with over 13 years’ experience in the employment and skills arena, having worked with both the public and private sector to develop high-quality research to inform organisational practice, public policy and shape the public debate.

Prior to joining the CIPD Lizzie led The Work Foundation's research and policy development on the youth labour market – and has published a number of influential reports on youth unemployment. She has regularly appeared on national and regional TV and radio, including BBC Breakfast, BBC the One Show, the Today Programme and Channel 4 news. Lizzie graduated in Sociology and has a master's degree in Social Science Research Methods, both from the University of Glasgow.

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