Music to our ears?

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell discusses the proposed introduction of T-Levels.

UK productivity remains stubbornly lower than desired. I visit several companies a month, and by investing in machinery and processes, most people I meet are playing their part in upping the UK’s productivity figures.

However, while my understanding of the finer economic points that make industry tick is limited, I can confidently say that the recent banking crisis and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit could negatively affect productivity levels.

Therefore, the news contained within the recent budget statement that introduce so-called T-Levels, which will have a similar status to A-Levels, must be welcomed.

The aim is to have teenagers ‘work fit’ in a number of industries that will help bolster the UK’s workforce after Brexit.

Changes students will notice will include spending 50% longer learning than they do at the moment – 900 hours a year.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders FMB, said: “The chancellor clearly understands that the UK won’t address the productivity challenge unless we rethink our approach to technical and vocational education. T-Levels could be the answer if they genuinely rival A-Levels in the eyes of parents, teachers and young people.

“UK society as a whole has been guilty of putting too much emphasis on the academic route – this has made it more difficult for vital sectors like construction and house building to attract the talented people we need. In construction, we are suffering from a severe skills shortage and this is likely to worsen once we leave the EU and no longer have easy access to European labour.”

Assessing the situation closer to our industry, Ben Brocklesby, director at Origin, said: “We were thrilled to see that the government is planning to introduce a series of qualifications known as T-Levels. Chancellor Hammond announced that there would be an additional £500 million a year given to technical and vocational education, designed to be more relevant to employers’ needs. This is music to our ears.

“Ever since we hosted our ‘Homes of the Future’ roundtable in 2015, we have been calling for the government to start encouraging fresh blood into the construction industry. This will fill the skills gap that is being created as the older generation retire.”

This is a great development, and I think the long-term benefits that T-Levels could bring are more profound than we can foresee at present. Hopefully, these will not be introduced in isolation, and that a non-academic route in education can be fostered earlier on in a student’s life.

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