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  • Writer's pictureHenry Dorling

The rise of T-Levels; what does it mean for Colleges?

So, here we are again; another academic year. Time flies when you are….well, very busy and trying to bring in new qualifications..?!

For some Colleges this year will be another year of delivering the new T-Level qualification. T-Levels are two year qualifications introduced by the government in 2020 to provide a better industry relevant qualification. More specifically, they offer students the chance to combine practical and knowledge based learning at school or college with an on the job industry placement for approximately 45 days. They have been phased in gradually with only three introduced to start with. Others have been introduced in subsequent years meaning that by September 2023 T Levels will cover all major curriculum areas from construction and childcare to hairdressing, engineering and finance.

Many colleges have embraced the opportunity with the Association of Colleges calling Colleges ‘the natural place for T Levels to be delivered…’ and that it provides an important step toward a technical and professional education system that gives, ‘…more young people the transition into working lives they deserve.’

Employers have been equally supportive of the new qualifications as it allows them to unearth the workforce of the future, positively developing future work pathways for many young people. Examples of industry benefiting from T Levels include Somerset NHS Trust who are working with Bridgwater and Taunton College to offer placements for 20 healthcare students, giving them exposure to a variety of adult nursing experiences, South West Nissan who currently offer a one day a week placement in their IT department to upskills students in digital skills, or Infinity 27 a small business covering augmented reality and gaming, who have identified a skills gap in this new industry and are offering students placements that give them the chance to work on real projects and developing other skills within this innovative area.

All of these examples show how much the new T Levels can offer not only the students completing the courses, but also the Colleges themselves, expanding their networks, building employer and industry relationships and being able to showcase students in real world settings. Industry partners can clearly gain many benefits from having students in their workplaces, from completing live projects, to creating new ideas and ultimately developing a skilled and motivated workforce of the future.

However, not everyone is in favour and believes there are benefits. The issue of accessibility is one key area; the ability for a College to source placements in London may not be the same as a College in Lincoln. Equally, not all Colleges across the country have the ability or resources to offer all T Level courses, so a student in Margate may not be able to access the same course opportunities as a student in Manchester. In addition, some recent research has shown that organisations are concerned about the cost of offering placements to Colleges and whether or not the students they receive will be of high enough quality. In the report there were also worries around whether or not the placement ‘market’ is saturated and whether or not there would be a good enough supply of high quality placements. All of these criticisms are well founded and in general have not been fully addressed by government departments, although as is often the case, it depends on your postcode as to the extent of the challenges.

So, whether you are a lover or a hater, T Levels seem as though they are here to stay. It is therefore important to ask what exactly they bring to individuals. Clearly it is the ability to experience the world of work whilst studying, building skills that are relevant in the workplace and demonstrating value to the organisation now and for the future. Notwithstanding the criticisms, there seems to be an appetite for it in many parts of the country and clearly the Government believes in them. So, with all of these new and innovative experiences happening for young people, where and how do they evidence this?

Clearly the T Levels offer fantastic experiences and ones which can positively influence young people throughout their life. It is a lot of work, many hours of commitment, a variety of roles and potentially opportunities that could lead to bigger and better things in the future. For many individuals, these experiences come and go on the course with perhaps an assessment linked to the placement, some reflective tasks or roles that are graded against common criteria. Students then receive their certificate and put this on their CV to send out to potential employers. However, this does seem to streamline and simplify what has been a very involved, well planned and influential process. Surely there is a better way to evidence all these great experiences than just a bullet point on a CV or a certificate?

This is where globalbridge can help. The platform allows students to upload a variety of multimedia evidence which can actually showcase the student in action. Imagine a photo of a T Level student networking with business colleagues, a video of a catering student serving guests, a health student presenting a nutrition workshop or even the showreel of a creative media student. It can also capture a reference from the employer attached to that particular experience and even rate and reflect on it. The globalbridge platform can really bring the T Levels to life, allowing the student to be proactive in their future choices and highlighting their achievements not only in their education but their personal life as well. It has the ability to capture videos, photos, music and documents as well as highlighting qualifications and the talents of an individual.

In this new world of T Levels where it is all about experiences to help support education and industry choices, there should be a more innovative way to evidence and showcase these and to ensure we are all working towards a better future for our young people.

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