Employers already experiencing work placement ‘fatigue’, DfE commissioned research reveals

Employers already experiencing work placement 'fatigue', DfE commissioned research reveals

Research commissioned by the Department for Education has found that employers may already be experiencing work placement ‘fatigue’ – even before the government’s reforms to technical education have kicked in.

The report, published today by the Learning and Work Institute and published this morning, addressed one of the key issues in the development of the new T-level qualifications – the introduction of a one- to three-month work placement for every learner.

“The evidence suggests that further investment will need to be made to increase providers’ capacity to successfully engage employers and boost the number and range of work placements offered to the levels described in the Skills Plan,” the report said.

But it added: “Concerns were raised at the workshops that employers may already experience fatigue as a result of the number of requests they receive from learning providers, and that a more coordinated approach will be necessary to ensure this issue is not exacerbated.”

It comes as Justine Greening addressed business leaders at the British Chambers of Commerce education summit in London today on the government’s plans to reform technical education, as outlined in last year’s Skills Plan.

These included a commitment of £50 million from April 2018 to fund “high quality work placements – a key component of every T-level – to help prepare young people for skilled work”.

This was not new money, but was instead part of the cash previously announced by the Treasury, which would see £500 million annual investment in T-levels from 2022.

The funding is being phased in, with £65 million coming in April 2018 – enough to cover the work placements commitment, with the remaining £15 million being used to “contribute to improvements in further education”.

Concerns have been raised across the sector about the difficulty in securing enough good quality work placements.

A key issue will be how to persuade thousands of businesses around England to offer the work-placements, something which is likely to require financial incentives.

Sufficient availability of local work-placements and travel costs could also be a major barrier for policy makers to overcome.

The LWI’s report was one of two projects commissioned by the DfE to look into work placements.

The institute, in partnership with workforce development body Fair Train, was charged with looking into what effective practice in work placements looks like and how it can be scaled up to the level required by T-levels, as well as identifying any challenges.

As well as calling for extra investment, it also recommended a “nationally mandated set of standards and guidance for implementation, moderation and assessment of work placements”, to ensure “a consistent approach across the country and ensure parity of learning for young people”.

The second project will be delivered by social cohesion charity The Challenge, and will focus on developing model work placement projects, based on research into existing good substantial work placements.