Have you ever wondered what the A in A Level stood for? With the arrival of the new qualification – T Levels – it’s time to find out. It transpires that A is for Academic and reflects the focus on the achievement of this qualification.
The newly created T Level has arisen from a full review of vocational education and has led to the creation of a new qualification with a more technical focus. The T Level is the equivalent of 3 A Levels and will follow immediately after GCSEs for 16-19-year-olds in the same way.
This qualification, which bridges the skills gap by providing students with practical and industry experience, became available in England in the Autumn of 2020 and offers a mixture of classroom learning and ‘on-the-job’ training.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “T Levels represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform technical education in this country so we can rival the world’s best-performing systems.”
Structure and Components of T Levels
- An approved technical qualification, from an approved awarding organisation
- A meaningful work placement with an employer lasting between 45-60 days in the student’s chosen industry
- English, maths and digital requirements
- Any license requirements to practice in that occupation
The T Level is set to become a popular choice for students after GCSEs. The qualification is initially available alongside the more traditional apprenticeships and A Levels and provides further options for students. Depending on the student’s choice, options of study range from 80% on-the-job and 20% in the classroom or a more academic educational route to a particular occupation.
Whatever initial route a student chooses, there will be further visibility and flexibility in moving between academic qualifications and technical education courses in order to gain skilled employment. It will become easier to progress to university with technical qualifications, helping to deliver a population that has the skills and knowledge the country needs to compete globally.
Meeting Industry Demands and Skills Shortages
T Levels support employers by providing early access to talent for entry-level positions, can improve recruitment, innovation and increase overall productivity, whilst bridging the skills gap.
By September 2023, there will be more than 20 T Level courses, covering 11 skill areas. Industry sectors currently covered are:
- Agriculture, Environment and Animal Care
- Business and Administration
- Construction and the Built Environment
- Creative and Design
- Digital and IT
- Education and Early Years
- Engineering and Manufacturing
- Hair and Beauty
- Health and Science
- Legal, Finance and Accounting
Details of courses available within each industry can be found here. With each course, students develop an understanding of a broad range of issues relevant to their chosen sector, as well as projects specific to the course and an occupational specialism.
Gaining a Competitive Edge: How T Levels Benefit Employers
T Levels offer students practical training and work experience directly applicable to their chosen industry and can be tailored to meet specific industry needs.
Employers can greatly benefit from T Levels by introducing a new generation of recruits from highly skilled, new sources who are ready to contribute to company success, bridge the skills gap, provide industry-relevant training, foster collaboration, and ensure technological relevance.
Furthermore, these qualifications can provide additional support for growing teams, provide opportunities for existing employees by allowing them to become mentors for students, increase brand awareness as a forward-thinking, diverse and innovative company, and help build partnerships in the community with providers, schools and colleges.
Assessing Technical Knowledge and Practical Skills
T Levels focus on technical knowledge and practical skills and will consist of classroom-based study, work placements, practical assessments, external examinations, and employer-set projects. Each course will require the student to complete an industry placement that lasts a minimum of 315 hours (45 days) and provide a unique opportunity to develop new, upcoming talent in your industry.
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How T Levels Differ from A Levels
The most important difference between the two types of qualification is the course content. Unlike A Levels which offer a traditional academic route by focusing solely on theoretical and academic study in a full-time educational setting, T Levels have been created to provide technical and vocational education within both an educational and workplace setting and are designed to offer a hands-on approach to learning, adding focus to trade and industry skills in a particular field.
A Levels will typically comprise three or four subjects, based around subject knowledge and critical thinking skills, but most do not provide a direct route to a particular job or industry. To be able to study via this route, students will need a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 4-9, typically including English and Maths, and depending on the course, may require a minimum grade.
T Levels are recognised as equivalent to three A Levels and require students to study one subject exclusively throughout their time at sixth form or college. Hands-on, workplace experience provides valuable practical knowledge and widens the opportunity for career prospects and progression routes in a particular field. Although T Levels also require at least 5 GSCEs, the entry requirements differ. Students would need at least 5 GCSEs which includes acceptable grades in subjects that relate to the qualification. The option to retake English and Maths when not passed at GCSE level may also be available, although this varies per course and college.
T Levels can also offer a pathway to further university education. There are currently over 100 universities that will accept the qualification for entry to at least one of their courses. However, there are some universities that do not yet accept the T Level as a relevant qualification, and it is therefore important that students research this point should they have a particular university in mind.
Costs of T Levels for Employers
T Levels are approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and are a free government scheme. However, employers will need to consider the costs of training, supervision, space, and insurance. To assist employers who cannot meet the additional costs associated with hosting a student, a temporary one-year Employer Support Fund has been made available to support employers with legitimate costs to enable them to offer placements. The fund is for students who start a placement between 1 April 2023 and 31 March 2024. Although this fund has only been put in place for a year, this is seen as a long-term objective to secure a pipeline of T Level industry placements.
Employers should discuss any support available with the training provider, who is responsible for assessing funding availability on a case-by-case basis.
To explore further detail about T Level qualifications, and whether this would be an area of interest for your organisation, please follow the government links below: