Last month’s Budget saw the announcement of an extra £20 million to be invested in helping colleges to prepare for the introduction of T-levels. T-levels are the new technical qualifications that have been developed with the aim of simplifying the process of vocational training in England. According to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, these types of technical qualifications has not always been viewed as being equal to academic qualifications and this needs to change. The T-levels will enable 16 – 19 year olds to study in 15 sectors which will include construction. They will replace the qualifications currently on offer and are designed to make access to the jobs market easier for millions of youngsters over the coming years.
This is being described as the “biggest overhaul of post-school education in 70 years” and it’s hoped that they will ensure that teenagers are “work-fit” in a number of key industries which will help to bolster the UK workforce after Brexit. With the UK currently placed 16 out of 20 developed economies in terms of how many people receive a technical education, this is promising news, especially for those of us in the construction industry which has long suffered the public conception of not being academic.
The cash injection announced in the Budget comes on top of the £50 million announced in May for “capacity building” and the annual £500 million investment announced last March, which will come into play from 2022. The Chancellor also revealed during his Budget speech that the government will keep under review the flexibility apprenticeship levy payers have in spending their levy cash.
It’s likely that T-levels are likely to be taught in colleges, rather than in schools and it’s worth noting that youngsters who do decide to study a technical T-level will spend 50% more time learning than they do at the moment – equalling 900 hours of learning per year. The T-levels will be developed and phased in between 2018 and 2022.
According to major players in the education sector, the support to prepare for T-levels and an extra investment in mathematics and computer sciences is a drop in the ocean compared with the amounts necessary to safeguard educational standards here in the UK. School funding in general is being cut in real terms by 4.6% in the period 2015 – 2019 according to analysis carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and funding dedicated to the education of 16 – 19 year olds is particularly inadequate.
The government has pledged to update school and college performance measures in order to ensure that students of the future can make an informed decision between technical and academic education in plenty of time for the introduction of the first T-levels which will be recognised as equally valued routes. The government has also promised that it will host a major “Skills Summit” with leading employers and publish a public consultation on the detailed design and delivery of T-levels before the end of the year.