T levels have potential to deliver technical talent if employer challenges are addressed 

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The success of the new T level vocational pathway depends on employers being able to offer 43,500 placements, but capacity and cost constraints are holding them back, according to analysis from Make UK and EngineeringUK.

With a chronic shortage of skilled technicians to power Britain’s industry, it is critical that more employers get on board with T Levels and offer industry placements, to plug the gap and give UK business the power it needs to compete on the international stage.

Make UK and EngineeringUK have published new research highlighting the benefits of T levels for businesses who are desperate for more young skilled people. However, the report – Unlocking talent: Ensuring T Levels deliver the workforce of the future – also draws attention to the challenges that T levels in the engineering and manufacturing sector face, particularly the industry placement component of the qualification.  

Make UK and EngineeringUK estimate that the engineering and manufacturing T Level route will require as many as 43,500 placements to be provided by employers in the sector by 2024/25. Yet currently, only one in ten engineering and manufacturing employers surveyed for the report hosts a T level placement and just 12% plan to in the coming year.

Several factors are holding back engineering and manufacturing employers from engaging with T levels and from offering industry placements, including a lack of employer understanding of T levels and of information and support on offer. The survey found that over half of respondents had never heard of the financial support available for offering placements. Almost six in ten said that they had not heard of the tailored advice and direct hands-on support available, with 52% saying the same about webinars, guides and case studies, and 63% about shared placements.

But it’s not just awareness; cost and capacity remain a major barrier, with 44% of engineering and manufacturing businesses saying a lack of staff capacity is the main barrier to delivering T Level industry placements.

Based on the findings, Make UK and EngineeringUK are calling on Government to restore the £1,000 incentive for SMEs to make it easier for employers to offer a T level placement; to work with sector bodies and organisations to run an awareness-raising campaign to get more employers on board; to develop clear progression maps that demonstrate how T levels work within the current education landscape; and to establish a T level industry placement taskforce to support the delivery of placements and be ambassadors for the wider T level programme.

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