On course to deliver?

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

The first schools and colleges to teach the new T-levels were announced over the bank holiday weekend. 

From 2020, the new courses will offer teenagers in England courses in construction, digital, and education and childcare. 

Each course will include a three-month work placement and are intended as vocational alternatives to A-levels.

While Prime Minister Theresa May said the new courses were the “most significant reform to advanced technical education in 70 years”, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said the government must be realistic about the capabilities and work-readiness of students who have completed construction T-Levels, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The idea that a student who has completed a T-Level in bricklaying is able to call themselves a qualified bricklayer is not credible. The government must be realistic about how much can be achieved in two years of largely college-based learning. Although T-Levels include a three-month work placement, when the rest of the individual’s knowledge and skills are acquired in the classroom, in construction they will need more time on site, post-T-Level, before they can and should describe themselves as being qualified in that trade. Small and medium-sized construction firms, which do the bulk of training in our industry, would rather view T-Levels as a rich pool of talent through which to find apprentices.” 

The FMB is right to be cautious. We have a golden opportunity to put something in place that could reignite the passion and pride that should go hand in hand with a vocational career – something the FMB calls the “parity of esteem between vocational and academic education”.

Whether T-Levels evolve into that, or they become stepping stones to something more comprehensive, will become apparent in due course.

What we don’t want is an ineffectual sticking plaster offered as a solution to the skills crisis that we are currently facing, and which could do further damage in the long term.