Jennifer Coupland reflects on the launch of the first technical qualifications (TQs) for T-levels and how they will be taught from September

The impact of Covid-19 on training providers and schools is a major consideration in all our work. But though it’s right to focus on the crisis now, we also have an eye to the future.  We will come out of this crisis and when we do, having a plan for higher-quality technical education will be more important than ever. 

It’s clear that employers and the wider economy are going to need all the help they can get to rebuild. T-levels, initially on a small-scale for wave one and allied to apprenticeships, can support a much-needed drive to boost skills of the next generation of young people entering the workplace.

The Secretary of State for Education is committed to the launch of the first T-levels in the next academic year, as planned.

The institute and our partner employers, awarding organisations and Ofqual have made sure that the TQs which underpin the T-levels, are first-rate products that deliver for employers and most importantly students.

The first TQs have now been approved and published. These have been designed by awarding organisations with the support of the Institute and employers from different sectors.

Wave 1 providers have worked closely with awarding organisations on these and now have them in good time to prepare to teach the first students. The Department for Education will keep the impact of Covid-19 on provider readiness under review and will support where needed. The Awarding organisations and the Education and Training Foundation are preparing the sector for first teaching.

T-levels will be the technical equivalent to completing three A Levels, combining classroom theory, practical learning and an industry placement.

The classroom element of the TQs will include broad ‘core content’ which gives the learner an overview of key aspects of the profession and will include a project set by employers to replicate experience of a workplace environment. They will then train for a more specific ‘occupational specialism’ to develop and practice their skills.

For example, in education and childcare, students will be set real-life scenarios, requiring them to consider the specific needs of a child and to research and plan how to use their practical knowledge to most effectively support a child’s development.

On the design, surveying and planning for construction course the civil engineering project could include producing calculations, drawings and reports for the design of a new development.

And in the world of digital production, design and development students will learn the most up-to-date programming languages, emerging technologies and trends, before using them to develop digital solutions to real problems.

This will help students emerge with the right skills to make a direct impact in their chosen profession.

It all adds up to an impressive offer and I have seen during my first six months at the Institute, and through my previous role as the DfE’s director of Professional and Technical Education, how much expertise and hard work has gone into getting them right.

Work is also ongoing with preparing for the second and third waves of the new qualifications. More than 200 businesses, including Fujitsu, Skanska, and GlaxoSmithKline as well as many small and medium sized firms, have supported with designing the course content so far.

There is much to be proud of. We are sensibly starting on a small-scale and planning for steady progress in terms of student engagement over the next five to ten years. The success of this exciting project should be judged on those terms.

In these troubled times, it is important to focus as much as possible on the positives. T Levels are being delivered on schedule and to a high standard. It is a huge team effort and I would like to congratulate everyone across the sector who has contributed so far.