The Department for Education has launched a £1 million contract for an organisation to drive new T Level employer placements.
A tender, published last week, is for a contract due to launch in September running for two years.
The document explains that the DfE is seeking “a potential supplier to engage with employers to develop their knowledge and understanding of T Levels, as well as helping them to plan and prepare to deliver high-quality industry placements through guidance materials, workshops and webinars, and tiered hands-on support”.
The contracted firm is expected to engage with private sector employers, central government departments and quangos, and wider public sector employers like local government and NHS trusts.
It is also expected to produce support and guidance materials tailored to different size employers and different sectors, and report back to the DfE on patterns of employment and workplace training.
A prior information notice ahead of the contract tender being published said that the employer support package aims to “promote the benefits of industry placements to employers,” as well as “explain what T Levels are and how they fit into the wider educational landscape, and how they differ from work experience and apprenticeships”.
T Level courses, the first three of which launched in 2020, feature a mandatory placement with an employer totalling 45 days or 315 hours, with the industry link among the selling points for the new qualifications.
To date, 16 T Levels have launched with another two – agriculture and legal services – due to launch this September.
As T Level provision grows, the need to drive-up employer placements has also become apparent, with the new contract seemingly the latest in efforts to encourage employers to get on board with the flagship new qualifications, designed to be the technical equivalents of A-levels.
The DfE has said that by 2025, around 100,000 students will be studying T Levels every year.
Between 2019 and 2022 the government offered sweeteners of up to £750 initially (and upped to £1,000 in 2021) to help employers cover the costs of offering placements, but just £500,000 of the £7 million pot was used, and only 843 placements supported against a target of 32,466.
In February, the DfE confirmed a £12 million pot is available for the 2023/24 financial year to support employers to offer placements, paying for costs such as staff training, equipment or set-up expenses.
Last year £2.2 million was set aside to offer £350 per placement to small and medium-sized firms, while in January the DfE relaxed rules on placements so that up to a fifth of placement hours could be carried out remotely.
Despite the efforts of the government, some employers maintain that the red tape and cost pressures make it unattractive.
Research from 2022 found that three quarters of employers had not heard of T Levels, while other employers told FE Week earlier this year that they were reticent to offer placements because of insurance worries, spending time training someone who is not staying, an inability to offer a placement that fits their course, and the need for specific industry requirements, such as Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) cards for building sites.