T Level Extended Work Placement Research

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP)
Wednesday, January 2, 2019

T-levels is a new two-year learning programme for young people in England that is being phased in from September 2020 onwards that will form a third, technical education alternative for 16-year-olds.

Published by City & Guilds and AELP (May 2018)

T-levels is a new two-year learning programme for young people in England that is being phased in from September 2020 onwards. "T" stands for technical. Sitting alongside A levels and apprenticeships, they will form a third, technical education alternative for 16-year-olds. They are a key part of the government's overhaul of technical and vocational education for 16- to 19-year-olds in England, the ultimate aim of which is to give young people the skills that industry needs.

Length of work experience

The compulsory industrial placement in T-levels means a minimum of 45 days and up to 60 days with an employer over two years - nine to 12 weeks. AELP Research, working with City and Guilds, were quick to single out the industrial placement as needing particularly careful implementation if learning providers and employers are to rise to the challenge of securing meaningful experiences for young people in their chosen careers in high enough numbers in all areas of the country.

In May 2018, an online survey of 332 colleges and training companies was conducted to investigate views and relevant experiences of extended work placements. The average work placement for almost half of the colleges and training providers surveyed is just one week or less. For 23 per cent it is two weeks. The challenge then becomes about finding suitable employers to take 16- to 19-year-olds into their workplaces for far longer than has previously been the case.

Further, sector-specific barriers to work placements are common for young people new to the labour force. The survey found the restrictions included where: seasonal, shift or independent working is the norm; highly technical equipment is used; legislation or regulatory knowledge is central to the role; and health and safety is necessary.

Placement success factors

The AELP/City and Guilds survey found that high quality work placements were achievable if learning providers invest time and resources in planning, relationship building and organisation. In particular:

  • Practical arrangements such as transport, working hours and access to restricted areas in workplaces
  • Assessing employers' willingness to engage in skills development activity with young people, and
  • Matching up employer and learner personalities, aspirations and interests so that a rapport can develop.

Before starting placements, experienced providers suggested focusing on work-readiness, especially to show to employers that learners are motivated and understand behaviours and attitudinal expectations of employers. Also, on having all paperwork in place (essential insurance, police checks). Once on an employers' site, the quality of placements stems from learners getting to do real tasks under supervision. The research found examples of committed employers helping improve learners' occupational and technical skills and employability ‘on the job'.

Implications for practice

  • T-levels are widely welcomed in principle but there is huge gap between current practice and what is required for industrial placements to succeed.
  • On the face of it, the policy assumes an almost limitless pool of employers in every locality and sector to select the best from, which simply isn't the case.
  • It is good that the government is currently piloting T-levels and working on communications to learning providers, employers and the general public ready for a soft launch from September 2020. However, employers and teachers/tutors are facing a new time-consuming role for which they will need considerable on-going support from their leadership teams and government.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) represents the interests of over 900 organisations delivering vocational learning and employability support for 380,000 employers

This article is part of CYP Now's Apprenticeships Special Report. Click here for more

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