Fresh funding has been announced to entice employers into offering T Level placements – following the failure of previous sweeteners to get businesses on board.
The Department for Education this morning revealed that a £12 million fund will be available to help employers offering placements in the 2023/24 financial year, which can be used to cover the costs such as set-up expenses, equipment or staff training.
In addition, all providers delivering T Levels – the flagship new qualifications designed to be the technical equivalent of A-levels – in the 2023/24 academic year will get a one-off grant of up to £10,000 for additional careers guidance for students.
T Levels include a mandatory industry placement of 45 days or 315 hours with an employer.
The DfE guidance confirmed that any employer offering a suitable T Level placement is eligible to claim for “legitimate costs” for placements that start from April 1, 2023.
Placements that start before then are not eligible.
The money is set to be paid via T Level providers for their students. The guidance said that T Level providers will be allocated a sum of the cash based on their T Level student numbers.
Employers will then be required to provide basic information about their business, and submit a declaration form that includes evidence of the costs they are claiming for.
The providers will then be responsible for validating claims from employers, making the payments to employers either once a start date has been agreed or a placement begins, and then report back the claims paid out via a DfE online tool.
Full guidance will be published in March 2023 – just weeks before eligible claims can begin.
The DfE would not be drawn on how much a single employer can receive, explaining that full details will be published in the coming weeks.
In November, FE Week reported that just £500,000 from a previous £7 million employer support fund – 8 per cent – was used during its previous run from 2019-2022.
That scheme offered firms £750 to cover tangible placement costs in four regions of England, upped to £1,000 per placement in 2021/22.
An evaluation report published last year found that just 843 placements were supported against a target 32,466 with the fund.
Research from earlier in 2022 found that three quarters of employers had not heard of T Levels and only 7 per cent of employers not interested in offering T Level placements would change their mind if offered a £1,000 incentive.
Employer bodies, such as the Federation of Small Businesses, have however called for the reintroduction of employer cash bonuses for T Levels.
Skills minister Robert Halfon said: “As the cohort continues to grow year on year, it is great news that extra support is being delivered to schools, colleges and employers to enable them to meet this increasing demand and provide the highest-quality training to their students.”
He added that T Levels will “set them on the path to success” regardless of whether students choose to go on to higher education, apprenticeships or employment.
On the careers guidance support, the DfE confirmed that all providers delivering T Levels in the 2023/24 academic year will get the one-off grant to ensure students understand T Levels and the T Level transition programme offering.
It said that larger providers will receive £10,000 while smaller providers will get £5,000, although it has not yet been made clear what the threshold will be between small and large providers.
The DfE added that providers will not need to do anything to claim the cash, but a grant letter will be issued in the future with details about how much they will get and how the funding will be paid.
The announcement, made on the inaugural T Level Thursday, follows last month’s 16-to-19 funding band confirmation which included a 10 per cent uplift in funding bands for T Levels for 2023/24.
Jennifer Coupland, chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, which oversees the design and rollout of T Level courses, said government needed to ensure employers and providers are “fully supported to deliver outstanding results for students in schools, colleges and through the substantial work placements,” which “really make them stand out from other qualifications”.
She added: “This extra funding will provide a big boost to training providers and businesses. T Levels are the new gold standard for classroom-based technical education.”
Cath Sezen, interim director of education policy at the Association of Colleges said that the funding announcement will be welcomed by colleges, and hoped businesses will be engaged to offer placements that in turn will help meet their own skills gaps.
Sezen said the 10 per cent funding uplift will help with staff recruitment, but warned that “to make real impact funding needs to be a permanent fixture”.
She added: “Funding alone will not address college concerns that T Levels will only meet the needs of those young people who have achieved good GCSE grades at 16, rather than those who have lower starting points but flourish on current qualifications which are going to be defunded.”