The Department for Education is looking for organisations to help broker T Level placements in small and medium-sized employers as the new qualification scales up.
Up to £350 will be paid per placement to the winning contractors who can now bid to deliver the work in four sectors: construction and the built environment; engineering and manufacturing; digital; and business operations.
DfE documents advertising the contracts state that SMEs “currently require additional support” at this early stage of the T Level rollout to “embed the programme as it grows”.
“We recognise for SMEs there is a need for an extra layer of support to broker a relationship with their relevant T Level provider, as well as support to ensure they understand the benefits and requirements of a T Level placement,” the documents add.
The contracts, which will run from 2022/23 to possibly 2024/25 and are worth £2.2 million in total, come amid concern that not enough businesses will be convinced to host students for 315-hour minimum industry placements – which are a mandatory component of T Levels.
Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi claims to have seen evidence there will be enough employers to host the placements to meet demand – but his department has taken a number of actions that suggest they are struggling with the task.
In December the DfE called on the NHS and local councils to source and host T Level placements.
FE Week has already heard from principals of T Level colleges in the first two waves of 2020/21 and 2021/22, where 1,300 and 5,500 students were recruited onto the programme respectively, that they currently have students who cannot find industry placements.
The DfE says that by 2025, around 100,000 students will be studying T Levels every year.
In the tender documents, the department said: “SMEs make up the largest proportion of the national economy and it is recognised that SMEs do not have the same infrastructure of larger employers. The DfE recognises there is a need for an extra layer of support to broker placements as part of a T Level placement.
“By raising awareness of T Levels and the benefits of hosting industry placements within the SME market, we aim to unlock additional industry placement capacity.”
Contractors will need to “show how they intend to engage the SME market whilst they emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, to increase their ability and willingness to offer placements”.
In addition to brokering the relationship between the employer and provider, the contractor and learner “must ensure that both parties agree learner objectives which are to be signed by the employer and provider”.
Over the next three years the DfE hopes the contractors will help broker up to 1,794 placements in construction and the built environment; 664 in business operations; 1,423 in engineering and manufacturing; and 2,098 in digital.