Most UK employers “unprepared” to offer T-level training

More than half of companies surveyed by the CIPD had “never heard of” the government’s new vocational qualification.

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Research published today suggests that three quarters of UK employers will not be able to offer students the minimum amount of work experience required to qualify for the new “T-level” qualification.

T-levels are vocational courses, announced by the government last year and set to be introduced in 2020 as part of a plan to revitalise technical education. They offer training in fields including engineering, catering and hospitality, business and transport, and they have a focus on practical experience and on-the-job learning. A work placement of 45-60 days in length, spanning a minimum of 315 hours, is required to complete any T-level course.

But a survey of over 2,000 companies carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), found that 74 per cent of UK employers surveyed were “unprepared” to offer these work experience placements.

Around 60 per cent of those surveyed by the CIPD said they had “never heard of” T-levels, while 22 per cent said that they would need a financial incentive in order to offer a placement. When asked about their current work experience schemes, employers said they took on a mixture of university students, secondary school students, and interns. The majority of placements, at any level, last for less than two weeks.

Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser at the CIPD, said that “these findings shine a light on the potentially fatal mismatch between the amount of work experience T-level students will need to complete their qualification, and what UK employers currently feel able to offer. We, and many employers, welcome the reforms to the skills system, and the positive impact that T-level students can bring to workforces around the country. However, for the majority of organisations, particularly SMEs, the requirement to provide 45 days of work experience per T-level student is unrealistic and could prove to be a significant problem.”

In order to ensure the uptake of T-levels and awareness of them, Crowley said, “government intervention is absolutely key to whether the qualifications are a success, when they’re introduced in two years’ time. It needs to provide employers with more information and guidance about how to include T-level students effectively in their workforce, and also seriously rethink the work experience requirement, or [they will] jeopardise the success of these key reforms for improving technical education and skills in the UK.”

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.