It can’t have escaped your attention that further education is undergoing a major shift towards workplace learning.
Locally and nationally, we’re experiencing widening skills gaps in numerous sectors, which requires government, providers and employers to work together to find alternative ways of providing the skills the economy demands.
Among the government’s solutions is the T Level qualification – described as the biggest overhaul in post-school education for 70 years.
And Weston College will be at the forefront of this ‘revolution’ as one of 54 providers selected to pilot the new qualification.
T Levels will be available in 15 industry-related subjects, known as ‘pathways’. We will deliver the Digital (software applications design and development) T Level from September 2020 – two years before the full roll-out.
T Levels provide a genuine alternative, and equivalent, to A Levels. They’re aimed at 16 to 19-year-olds who would rather study work-related courses than traditional academic subjects. As well as preparing learners for employment, T Levels are designed to raise career aspirations and to dispel the myth that vocational courses are the poor relation of A Levels.
An integral component of each T Level programme is a high-quality, structured and outcome-focused industry placements.
T Level learners must undertake an industry placement of 315 hours (45 days) before they can complete the course. However, industry placements will be important in their own right, by helping young people gain the skills needed to move into employment.
Delivering such extensive and authentic workplace learning clearly requires a huge commitment from local employers. We’ve taken great strides over the last decade to forge close relationships with businesses but, with T Levels fast approaching, we’re working even harder, and putting even greater resources, into building new partnerships with industry.
After successfully applying for Capacity and Delivery Funding (CFD), we’ve put in place a Work Placement Team, whose remit is to work with employers from across the region to establish and develop high-quality placements that fulfil genuine commercial need.
The team will also provide support and guidance throughout the placement and monitor learners’ progress.
T Levels represent a tremendous opportunity for employers.
The curriculum is shaped by employers and benefits from the unique insights of business leaders. The industry placements at their core provide businesses with talent pipeline where they can develop their, potential, future workforce according to need. They also allow existing staff members to share their knowledge and develop mentoring skills.
Aside from T Levels, work experience is at the core of virtually all Weston College provision.
All our FE courses are part of a ‘study programme’ that is designed to prepare young people for their future career. Our facilities aim to mimic real-life workplaces and some – including our Hair and Beauty Centre and Grove Restaurant – operate as commercial businesses.
We recently became one of just 22 providers to be awarded Career College status. This significant investment will enable the College to provide an extra 1,000 places for 16 to 19-year-olds, who want to combine academic studies with practical, work-based learning.
These developments and facilities will complement the T Level curriculum as we prepare for the pilot.
It’s an honour and an exciting challenge for the College to be helping to roll out this pioneering new qualification, but it also represents a huge opportunity for regional businesses – one I’d urge them to get involved in.
Dr Paul Phillips, CBE – Principal & Chief Executive, Weston College