by Richard McPartland
Why are T-levels being introduced?
The aim is to put technical courses on an equal footing with academic courses through a new 'simpler' system that will replace 13,000 qualifications with 15 new ones linked to the needs of employers.
The changes follow a government-commissioned review carried out by Lord Salisbury and are aimed at improving Britain's levels of productivity. Britain currently lags behind the United States and Germany.
Why the focus on technical education?
When it comes to technical education the UK is now near the bottom of international league tables.
In his budget speech the chancellor acknowledged that, while the academic route through education, from GCSEs to A-levels and on, is well-regarded, more needs to be done for technical education.
The budget document states; "England’s technical education system is confusing for students, with around 13,000 qualifications available – many of them of little value."
The new plans are, therefore, aimed at ensuring a "genuine parity of esteem" between academic and technical routes to employment.
When will the first students start studying towards T-levels?
The changes to technical education are expected to come into effect from 2019/20.
England’s technical education system is confusing for students, with around 13,000 qualifications available – many of them of little value
What T-level courses will be available?
The 15 new courses will include catering and hospitality, construction, social care and engineering and manufacturing, amongst others, and will be backed by funding to the tune of an extra £500m per year once the courses are up and running.
The number of hours 16 to 19-year-old students will be expected to study will increase by 50% to around 900 hours a year with the expectation that those enrolled will also carry out a three-month work placement.
In addition, students in further education or technical colleges (studying qualifications from Level 4 through 6) will also be able to access maintenance loans to support their studies.
What's the reaction been to the plans for T-levels?
The CIOB have welcomed the proposal though sounded a warning on existing pressing skills shortages.
Eddie Tuttle, Associate Director for Policy, Research and Public Affairs said: "Achieving greater parity between academic and vocational education and providing ‘work-ready’ employees is particularly crucial in construction. The offer within these T-levels of a high quality work placement is vital; alongside further education institutes and employers, we as a professional body look forward to working with the Government to develop these qualifications."
“The importance of skilled trades and the construction industry need to be made clear: while other industries, such as manufacturing, have shed skilled workers, the construction industry maintains a third of all employment in this occupation group, and this is predicted to only grow further in the future. Skilled trades not only provide solid earnings in themselves, but provide many with an opportunity and a platform for progression within their career through to management and professional roles.”
The Association of Colleges have also welcomed the focus on technical skills and education that they believe have been 'overlooked for too long'.
What about other investment in training?
The budget also included extra finance for research into training - £5m to increase the number returning to work following lengthy career breaks and £40m to explore ways for people to retrain throughout their working lives.