Building the future: How T Levels could change the face of construction

The new technical qualifications will be crucial to developing construction’s next generation but they will need employing organisation input to succeed.

29 September 2023

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), only around 5.9% of workers in the construction industry were aged 18-24 years, compared to an average of 11.2% across all industries. Various misconceptions continue to prevent some demographics from pursuing promising careers in sectors like plastering, plumbing, and decorating but T Levels could allow employers to significantly impact skills development in the construction sector and help young people find career success.

Construction: an ageing workforce

With more than half a million construction workers set to retire in the next 10 to 15 years and an additional 34,500 vacancies expected to open up in the next five years, young people need to be encouraged into roles in construction to cover the increased demand for skilled workers that will emerge in the near future.

In order to make this happen it’s important to both create interest in construction as a sector and then to make sure that there are clear paths in place to support entry into the industry for the young people who need them. 

Could T Levels be the solution?

T Levels building the futureAccording to our Youth Misspent survey, 43% of young people do not believe that their education has adequately equipped them with the skills to get the job they want, and only 36% have been able to access work experience. Less than a quarter (20%) of 24-year-olds are confident that their skills will help them progress, meaning that the majority of young people leave school, college or university unprepared for their chosen careers. 

While options like apprenticeships are available, not everyone will feel ready to go straight into a full job role in construction upon leaving school. Equally, there will be many people who want more practical experience than can be offered by existing technical qualifications. 

This is where T Levels come in. T Level qualifications combine the practical experience offered by apprenticeships with a more intensive classroom and workshop-based training programme more comparable with other qualifications, they were introduced with the goal of addressing persistent skills gaps and simplifying the technical education landscape.  

By combining classroom and workshop-based training with a 45-day industry placement, young people can get the knowledge they need about their chosen career while also having the opportunity to test their practical skills and learn more about life in the workplace, without having to take on a full time job role that they may not feel ready for. 

With the current defunding of Advanced Technical diplomas and NVQs, from September 2024 T Levels will be the only Level 3 option for young people looking to enter the construction industry. For the benefit of learners, businesses and the whole industry, it’s vital that employers get involved to help T Levels succeed. 

T Levels and the construction industry

For the construction industry – which faces both a skills crisis and an ageing workforce – the benefits and opportunities afforded by T Levels are clear:

  • Specialised skills training

T Levels offer students a comprehensive blend of classroom-based learning, including training in core skills like project management and health and safety in construction andpractical application in fields like plastering or plumbing depending on their specific interest, preparing them to fulfil real roles in the sector.

  • Industry work placements

T Levels include a significant work placement component of at least 45 days, allowing students to gain hands-on experience and exposure to real-world construction environments, alongside peers from diverse backgrounds. This lets students use their new skills in a real construction environment while also introducing them to working life.

  • Employer engagement

The creation and delivery of T Levels involves close collaboration between education providers and employers at every stage of the process. Working with industry experts to create training content and including an industry placement as part of the qualification creates graduates with the knowledge and skills that employers want. This ensures that the new generation of workers will always have the agility and skills to adapt to the ever-evolving construction landscape.

  • Creating accessible pathways

By offering a blended approach, T Levels can attract and support individuals from diverse groups, including those who may have faced barriers to education and training in the past. Encouraging the involvement of diverse role models and mentors from the industry in training content and work placements can also inspire students from underrepresented groups to envision successful careers in construction.

Co-creating the future – the importance of industry involvement

There are multiple ways in which employers can contribute to the future of T Level education in the UK, something which will be necessary to make sure the new qualifications succeed. 

  • Employer industry boards

Employing organisations in construction can work with education providers to shape T Level curriculum and provide ongoing feedback and development. This helps create better courses for learners but also provides learning and networking opportunities for those already working in construction.

By getting involved in the creation and delivery of T Levels, individuals can find out about skills development, helping them to become the go-to expert on training in their organisation while also creating business connections in the sector.

  • Qualification validation

Employers are also able to offer support in the rigorous review of qualification quality alongside awarding organisations and regulatory authorities. Together, these bodies assess the qualifications against set criteria to ensure they are fit for purpose, giving business owners the chance to confirm learners are gaining the sort of skills their organisation needs. 

  • Work placements

Employers in construction are urged to offer work placement opportunities for T Level students to gain practical experience and exposure to the workplace. This is an opportunity for employers to discover young people with the potential to be moulded into future employees, fast-tracking the recruitment process, while also contributing to the success of the whole sector.

Scott Usher, Operations Manager for Michael J Lonsdale Group spoke about the importance of employers getting involved with T Levels: “I thought it was important to get involved with the employer validations, to have a voice, to understand exactly what the intentions were with regards to T Levels, how they would affect us and the industry, and have involvement on how they were going to move forward and affect the youngsters that are coming into the industry. We feel as though it's important that others do the same because it only works when a lot of people get involved.” 

There are many benefits of employer involvement in the creation and delivery of T Levels. Learners get the best possible training thanks to a curriculum built using the knowledge of industry experts and the practical advice from their industry placement. At the same time, employers can be confident that these learners are gaining the right skills and can develop the best possible future employees for themselves and for the whole construction industry. 

Find out more about employer collaboration in T Levels