When it comes to the percentage of the UK population with a skilled technical education, the UK lags behind both Germany and America – by a lot.

In the spring budget 2017, Chancellor Phillip Hammond unveiled a plan to help make vocational education an attractive option for young adults and employers alike: T-Levels. Originally put forward by Lord Sainsbury in his wide-ranging Post-16 Skills Plan, T-Levels aim to increase the number of students who choose to enter technical education over an academic one. In a bid to decrease youth unemployment, and increase the technical skills needed for the future economy.

What are T-Levels?

The idea of T-Levels isn’t new. Successive UK Governments for more than 70 years have promised to place work-related lessons on an equal footing with academic education. T-levels, or technical levels, is the current Government’s answer.

The aim is to create and make available, 15 new educational pathways to students over the next five years. The new system hopes to streamline the current number of 13,000+ qualifications available for 16 to 18-year-olds, into two key routes to further education: the existing academic route (A-Levels), or a new technical route (T-Levels). The aim is to make England’s technical education system less confusing for students and of more value to the future economy than what is currently on offer.

T-Level pathways will be crafted to correspond to job sectors that require the most substantial amount of technical training in today’s competitive job market. The government aims to have some ready for implementation by 2020, and to roll the rest out by 2022.

Which areas will T-Levels cover?

Some of the T-Levels cover entirely new areas, while others build on existing areas of study. The 15 new pathways will be:

  • Agriculture, Environmental and Animal Care
  • Business and Administrative
  • Catering and Hospitality
  • Childcare and Education
  • Construction
  • Creative and Design
  • Digital
  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Hair and Beauty
  • Health and Science
  • Legal, Finance and Accounting
  • Protective Services
  • Sales, Marketing and Procurement
  • Social Care
  • Transport and Logistics

The current plans indicate that 11 of the above 15 options will be presented as a combination of two-year college courses and apprenticeships, while the other four options (protective services; sales, marketing and procurement; social care; and transport & logistics) appear to be apprenticeship only.

What does it mean for the FE sector?

Unlike previous technical qualifications, T-levels will be based at a school or college, in conjunction with a place of work. The aim is to allow students to have the option to ‘earn while they learn’. The government has also said it would provide maintenance loans, similar to that given to university students, to those on technical education courses at levels four to six with in these institutions. Furthermore, the government plans to also commit an additional £500 million each year to training for 16 to 19 year-olds on technical programmes.

Targeted investment of this type makes economic sense – further developed economies worldwide (such as Germany who’s vocational education has always been strong, and is frequently cited as the benchmark for European apprenticeships) recognised long ago that investing in technical education is essential to enhancing national productivity. It also helps to make T-Levels more attractive to both prospective students and employers.

However, one of the biggest challenges faced already by those interested in T-Levels, is that there are too few higher apprenticeship places at hand — just 27,000 a year — and only half are taken by young people under 25. Therefore institutes looking to grow their current programmes will need to also think about what more they can offer, and how what they teach reflects the modern workplace.

Assessment for technical qualifications

The vocational landscape is changing for the better, in a bid to prepare students for the fourth industrial revolution. It is important that assessments reflect this in both what they examine, and how they examine it.

Following research into what more students and employers want from their awarding body, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) approached RM Results to find out how they could support the delivery of a series of new examination formats that better reflected the modern working environment, whilst still maintaining the integrity of their exams.

Discover how RM Results were able to help them achieve this, halve their exam lifecycle effectively doubling their exam sessions annually, and more by downloading our case study.