The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has welcomed a £12 million injection of government funding to increase the uptake of T Levels including grants of up to £25,000 for employers who take students on work placements.
The Association said this was an opportunity for engineering firms to support future generations of skilled workers, boost their own in-house expertise, and promote career opportunities in the built environment sector.
The funding is the Department of Education’s latest attempt to increase the number and quality of placements that form a central part of T Levels. Employers are being offered the money to cover “legitimate costs” for any placements that start between April 1 this year and March 31, 2024.
Costs can include administration, equipment linked to the placement, transport, insurance, and training for existing staff. Colleges and other T Level providers will make the payments to employers and the money does not have to be repaid even if the course ends prematurely or the student drops out.
Employers are not required to provide evidence to support claims, but the Department said it would conduct random spot checks on providers and employers to ensure the money was being properly allocated.
“T Levels are a crucial part of the government’s strategy to grow the number of young people on a path towards employment in technical professions like building engineering,” said BESA’s head of training and skills Helen Yeulet.
“Each T Level includes a mandatory work placement of 45 days or 315 hours with an employer as this provides crucial practical experience as well as exposure to the world of work. So, it is very important that employers get involved.”
T Levels were introduced in September 2020 and are two-year courses which are taken after GCSEs. They are broadly equivalent to three A Levels and were developed in collaboration with employers and education providers with a view to students being ready to go straight into skilled employment, an apprenticeship or related technical study.
The Building Services Engineering (BSE) T Level is designed to help students develop an understanding of career options so more school leavers will be encouraged directly into building services apprenticeships. BESA believes that the work placements are an ideal way to introduce young people to the industry in a ‘live’ environment ensuring employers can draw from a pool of potential new entrants who are more likely to complete their training.
However, research carried out last year found that almost 75% of employers had little or no knowledge of T Levels. Just 843 work placements were supported out of a target of more than 30,000 from the last funding round when employers were only being offered £1,000 towards their costs.
“This time the financial support is far more generous which recognises that the take up has been hugely disappointing,” said Yeulet. “It is only right that employers are properly supported, especially now when costs are under pressure from all directions, but this is also an opportunity for our sector to address its skills shortages and look to the longer term.
“We simply must create a pipeline of talent that will feed our industry with the skills needed to take on future challenges. T Levels are a great opportunity for an employer to gain access to potential future employees and ensure they have the practical, targeted skills our industry needs.”