From education to employment

The first cohort of students prove T Levels deliver a pipeline of talent

Danielle Haskings, the Social Value Manager at leading construction and property employer Willmott Dixon.

Prior to her role at Willmott Dixon she was engaged in addressing issues around equality, diversity and inclusion as part of the Association of Women in Property. Here, Danielle discusses the benefits of offering T Level industry placements to businesses and how this new qualification could be key to tackling the skills shortage across industries.

The Design, Planning and Surveying for Construction T Level was among the first courses to be offered when the qualification launched in September 2020. When the Department for Education announced an open call for businesses to offer work placements to T Level students, Willmott Dixon was very eager to participate. Industry placements offer young people an important opportunity to explore what it’s like working in their chosen industry. By gaining real life experience in a role, T Level students can determine how their skills and strengths align with those required in their chosen field, helping them to decide if a sector is right for them. We saw it as a great way to source new talent and ensure our recruitment pool is diverse and inclusive. We also knew our involvement was an opportunity to help future proof the construction workforce by supporting the development of talented young people at the early stages of their career.

The first cohort of T Level students

The first cohort of 2020 T Level students have just finished their courses and we are delighted to have offered a number of students full time roles and degree apprenticeship opportunities at Willmott Dixon. During their time on placement with Willmott Dixon, T Level students complete one day a week working with professionals in the industry on major construction projects, including hospitals, schools and hotels, which gives them the necessary experience to help achieve their future goals. In view of success of our programme to date, double the number of T Level students are due to join us across the business on placement next year suggest amending to “we have doubled the number of placements we are offering to students next year” and we are looking forward to seeing this programme grow in the future.

At Willmott Dixon, T Level students gain experience across business management in construction, working with designers, quantity surveyors, site managers, on a weekly basis, putting what they are learning at college into practice in real life scenarios. Students are fully integrated in the teams they are working in. The experience they are gaining is invaluable and they are treated like employees. We get to know them, they get to know us and we hope, once they gain their qualification, they will come back to work at Willmott Dixon.

The skills shortage is a challenge everyone in the construction industry is concerned about at the moment. According to a recent report released by the Construction Skills Network, an extra 215,800 construction jobs  need to be filled in the UK by 2025. Training talent takes time and it is important to start this process now by giving young people the opportunity to dive into the industry.

T Levels are a way to grow our talent

For us, T Levels are a way to grow our own talent and find the next generation of construction industry leaders. For students, we are giving them the skills they need, whilst they are learning, to progress in their careers and lives. After they finish their T Levels they can apply to university, further training or higher apprenticeships – offering them various routes into the sector.  

Of course, as a business, we will be saving recruitment costs at this level, however this is not our primary consideration. In fact, quite the opposite. We can see that these students really contribute to the work being done across the business and, indeed are helping us to fill the skills gaps in our business and the wider industry. The students have been fantastic – committed, enthusiastic and with a genuine interest in the industry. I would highly encourage other businesses to open their doors to T Level students and offer industry placements as it is a mutually beneficial opportunity.  

Over the next few years, T Levels will scale to include more than 20 courses, covering 11 skill areas including construction, accounting, finance, engineering, agriculture, media, legal services and many more. As T Levels roll out, employers across England are being encouraged to partner with local schools and colleges to contend skills shortage across industries. We would advise all businesses consider joining this vocational revolution right now by offering industry placements for students.

By Danielle Haskings, the Social Value Manager at leading construction and property employer Willmott Dixon.

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