Employers unprepared to offer T-level work placements

Three-quarters of employers feel they would not be able to offer T-level students the minimum amount of work experience required to gain the new qualification, suggesting that the system needs to be overhauled before it’s even introduced.

According to a report published by the CIPD, 60% of employers had not heard of the new Level 3 qualification, which is set to be introduced as a technical alternative to A-levels and apprenticeships.

T-level students will be required to complete a work placement of 45-60 days in length, covering a minimum of 315 hours. The first T-levels are expected to be introduced in 2020 with a full roll-out intended from September 2023.

Only a quarter of employers felt that they would be able to offer students a work placement of a minimum of 45 days in duration, its survey of 2,001 HR professionals found, with a further 22% reporting that they would need a financial incentive to do so.

When asked about who they offered work experience to, 26% said they offered placements to university students, 23% offered placements to school pupils and 21% said they offered internships, which the CIPD said were most likely for graduates.

Two-thirds of placements currently offered were less than 15 days in length.

Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser at the CIPD, said: “These findings shine a light on the potentially fatal mismatch between the amount of work experience T-level students will need to complete their qualification, and what UK employers currently feel able to offer.

“We, and many employers, welcome the reforms to the skills system, and the positive impact that T-level students can bring to workforces around the country. However, for the majority of organisations, particularly SMEs, the requirement to provide 45 days of work experience per T-level student is unrealistic and could prove to be a significant problem.”

The report – Reforming technical education: employers’ views of T-levels – recommends that the government:

  • launches a campaign to increase employer awareness and engagement with T-levels;
  • ensures employability skills are embedded consistently across all T-level programmes;
  • ensures support and guidance is offered to employers who wish to engage with T-level students; and
  • considers whether financial incentives are appropriate to increase the availability of work placements.

Despite the limited awareness of T-levels and willingness to offer work experience, 44% of employers said the qualification would make a positive difference to young people’s employability as a whole.

Although recruiting a graduate would still be the most preferred option when it came to the recruitment of younger people, as suggested by 28%, 10% said they would recruit someone with a T-level as an apprentice and 7% said they would employ them into an entry-level role.

Crowley added: “Government intervention is absolutely key to whether T-levels are a success when they’re introduced in two years’ time.

“It needs to provide employers with more information and guidance about how to include T-level students effectively in their workforce, and also seriously rethink the work experience requirement or jeopardise the success of these key reforms for improving technical education and skills in the UK.”

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