THE FIRST programmes in a new initiative to tackle the skills gap in the UK economy are under way.
Milton Keynes College is among those institutions launching the new T-Level courses and potential students and businesses are being urged to take advantage of the opportunities provided by these new skills-based qualifications.
T (Technical) Levels are the latest attempt to counter the skills gaps in those areas where trained and able people are in shortest supply. Equivalent to A-Levels, Milton Keynes College is offering specialist courses in digital, construction and education and childcare.
Potential students can sign up now for the first wave of courses which are due to start in September.
Alex Warner is part of the team developing and implementing these new courses. “We often hear from local businesses which are struggling to source talent with the right knowledge, skills and behaviours,” he said.
“T-Levels give employers the opportunity to shape the curriculum to make sure future employees are developing a broad and balanced skillset. Employers will also get the opportunity through placements to see how what they have learned can be put to good use in the workplace.”
T-Levels will combine 80% lesson time at college and 20% industry placement – the reverse of the formula for apprenticeships. Mr Warner says that organisations which already have or are looking to take on an apprentice could combine two opportunities.
“Companies often have apprentices working four days a week and spending the fifth day at college. That fifth day of working could now be filled by a T-Level student as part of an industry placement. Alternatively, if the employer prefers to offer that T-Level industry placement in longer blocks of two or three weeks at a time for example, we can be sufficiently flexible to fit in with what they need.”
T-Levels provide the best bits of current post-16 options. They offer a broad programme developing skills and knowledge relevant to a range of occupations and actual opportunity to apply them in the workplace.
For example, in a digital T-Level there are two pathways from which to choose relating to software development or data analysis.
Students hone their abilities on work placements so that by the time they finish their course they will have a range of knowledge, skills and behaviours to progress into a full-time job or higher studies.
Mr Warner said: “Industry placements give employers the chance to source future talent. Companies may go through long and costly recruitment processes, eventually hiring someone who is not quite what they were looking for but they make do.
“Now, they can now make sure individuals are the right fit for their organisation.
From a student’s point of view, they can be confident they’re picking up experience and skills which will be relevant to numerous jobs they might want to apply for in future.”
Students wishing to apply will need five GCSEs at A-C including English and maths. For those who fall just short a transition programme is being created to start this year which will work like a foundation year, preparing them for the rigor of a T-Level.
Mr Warner said: “T-Levels are all about developing the very high-level technical skills which we know are highly sought after.
“Because the curriculum has been co-designed with employers, we are hopeful that this, along with the work placement element, will dramatically improve the job prospects of young people who take them.
“The synergy between on-the-job training and the classroom will support the development of those skills that the future workforce will really need.”