Employers lack staff to deliver T-Level work experience, report warns

Meaningful placements with ‘tasks, not tea’ require resources and investment, say experts 

Organisations may be unable to support T-Level standard work-based learning because they lack the resources and staff to dedicate extra time to training students, a government report warned earlier this week. 

The research, which was carried out on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE), found employers are concerned the time required to supervise learners will impair staff productivity, while some would require financial support to make up for time ‘lost’ overseeing learners. 

T-Levels, designed to act as technical alternatives to A-Levels, are due to be rolled out from September 2020. As part of the qualification, students would be required to carry out a work experience placement lasting between 45 and 60 days.

The report – Employer engagement and capacity to support T-Level Industry placements – discovered that employers already offering work-based learning were concerned they could not offer further opportunities because of the impact it would have on staff time and resources, the administrative work such placements created and a lack of confidence in younger workers’ productivity. 

And those which were not currently offering such learning raised concerns over their ability to offer meaningful and relevant opportunities to technical learners. 

“Meaningful work experience requires a level of resource and investment from the employer, which includes an induction process, supporting the learner in a job, and providing ‘tasks, not tea’,” said Ben Wilmott, head of policy at the CIPD.

“Without this investment, young workers won’t have experiences that support their professional development or demonstrate their practical experience to a potential employer – so while it’s one thing to be positive about offering work placements in principle, the planning required to provide something of value to the individual learner must not be underestimated.”

Kirstie Donnelly, managing director of City & Guilds and the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), added the challenges T-Level delivery presented would require government investment to resolve. 

“If they are to deliver these work placements in anywhere near the numbers required, employers told us the government would need to offer significantly more support than indicated in this week’s report,” she said. 

“Employers will require government funding to deliver these 40–60 day placements, specific curricula to follow and ongoing governmental advice and guidance.” 

Looking ahead, Willmott called on the DfE to increase employer awareness of T-Levels and consider the nature of work-based training requirements. A CIPD report published in August found just 40 per cent of 2,000 employers had heard of the qualifications before being surveyed. 

“The government should carefully consider the danger of the 45-day minimum training requirement compromising quality and acting as a disincentive for employers to engage with the T-level programme,” he warned.  

“T-levels are a vital reform to the technical education systems and need to succeed, but employers must be encouraged to provide meaningful work-based learning opportunities. Providing a shorter, higher-value level of placement is preferable to a mandatory level of 45 days that, based on an employer survey response, would be a struggle for many.” 

The DfE yesterday launched a tender process for the right to develop and deliver the first T-level qualifications in construction, digital, and education and childcare. 

“We will make sure that our changes to technical education enable young people to have the very best choices about how to build their career,” skills minister Anne Milton said. 

The DfE has not responded to request for comment on the T-levels report.