T Levels: the gold standard in technical qualifications

It’s now been two years since the roll out of T Levels began and as more programmes are being introduced, including three Engineering and Manufacturing T Level pathways as well as the Management and Administration T Level just this year, are you up to speed on what they are and how they can benefit learners or have an impact on skills shortage?

15 November 2022

With local and global media conversations a-buzz with phrases like ‘skills shortages’, ‘Brexit’, ‘great resignation’ and ‘recession’, the latest Youth Voice Census – published by Youth Employment UK – couldn’t be more relevant to what’s going on around us. 

The report, which surveyed respondents aged 14 to 30 years, provides direct feedback from young people on the topics of youth unemployment, work-readiness, mental well-being, and their perception of their place in their world. Inside the workplace, more than 40% of young adults feel that they have not received the training they need to perform their work. Meanwhile, outside of the workplace, those who are seeking employment face a myriad of challenges: 

  • More than 40% of young people who are actively seeking employment have been on the market for more than 6 months.
  • 36.8% have been looking for work for more than a year. 
  • The majority of those seeking employment (70%) admit that they would be happy with an entry-level position. 

What makes this all the more interesting is that on the one hand, the UK continues to navigate an ongoing skills shortage, especially in some of our most essential industries. And yet, on the other hand, we have masses of eager young people who are struggling to secure the roles they desire or are qualified for. 

Bridging the gap – What are T Levels?

Launched in September 2020, T Levels are the new ‘gold standard’ curriculum comprising of 2-year programmes offered to post-GCSE learners and are broadly equivalent to three A Levels. To date, more than 250 employers have been instrumental in the development of these new programmes in order to ensure a young person has the knowledge, skills and behaviours that are critical when forging robust progression pathways to further studies or skilled employment.

In a nutshell: 

  • T Levels are based on a set of standards developed by employers; the same standards as those used in apprenticeships.
  • T Levels are 2 years long, comprising 80% classroom and workshop-based learning, with 20% industry placement. (Approximately 45 days of working within an industry placement developing and honing practical skills).
  • On successful completion, a learner will receive their T Level certificate which includes an overall grade and will have a further breakdown of the relevant components, which includes core component, occupational specialism and completion of their industry placement. 
  • There are 15 T Level routes, covering subjects such as construction, engineering, business and finance and agriculture, environment and animal care. 

Likely due to still being in their infancy, T Levels remain somewhat under wraps. According to the 2022 Youth Voice Census, 72.1% of young people state that T Levels were never presented to them as an option during their career guidance at school. (In comparison, 83.2% of young people had been presented with apprenticeships as an option) The data further demonstrates that only 5.6% of young people are likely to apply for a T Level. This shows there’s still work to do to demonstrate the clear benefits of T Levels to learners, parents, education providers and employers.

Understanding the benefits of T Levels

There’s a reason why T Levels are the new gold standard curriculum in technical education, offering many benefits that other qualifications don’t. And it’s these benefits which should inspire confidence and enthusiasm in both learners and potential employers.

  • As outlined in our Great Jobs report, many of the UK’s essential industries are understaffed. Many employers in general are unable to fill vacancies due to a lack of skills. With T Levels bringing training in line with the needs of industry, these qualifications will go some way to filling that gap. 
  • T Levels are helping to streamline the qualification landscape. They are aligned with both apprenticeships through a shared set of standards, and A Levels, by providing a choice for learners to progress into either higher education or employment. 
  • Through a 45-day industry placement, the length of which is previously unseen in full-time education,  learners are able to experience what a career in their chosen field is like while continuing their studies. This also gives the learner a competitive edge, and better preparation for the world of work, over those who graduate from programmes that don’t have such a robust practical application element. 
  • As far as proven value goes, T Levels are nationally recognised, developed by industry-leading businesses and awarding organisations. They are upheld by the DfE and approved by the Institute for Apprenticeship and Technical Education. 
  • Moreover, T Level providers are eligible to receive funding for state-of-the-art specialist equipment and all non-independent training providers may bid for funding to refurbish existing facilities. 
  • A T Level holds the equivalence of three A Levels, and has been recognised by many universities should learners wish to continue their studies further. 
  • From September 2023, all providers currently funded to offer classroom-based study programmes to 16- to 19-year-olds will be able to deliver some or all T Levels. 

Partner with City & Guilds

City & Guilds delivers a range of T Level qualifications, awarded by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. Courses offered include: 

  • Onsite Construction
  • Building Services Engineering (BSE)
  • Management and Administration
  • Engineering and Manufacturing

In addition, we’re in the process of developing the technical qualifications for Agriculture, Land Management and Production, plus Animal Care and Management, to be launched from September 2023 and September 2024 respectively. 

City & Guilds is committed to providing learning opportunities of the highest standards, through curricula that remains relevant to the industry and delivered seamlessly from on-boarding to presentation and placement. We have a proud track record of 140 years in skills development and longstanding partnerships with industry and training provider leaders. 

If you’d like to find out more about T Levels, register for our webinar.