DfE seeks brokers for SME T Level placements

Up to £350 will be paid per placement to the winning contractors

Up to £350 will be paid per placement to the winning contractors

12 Apr 2022, 12:20

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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.

Over the past year ministers have ruled that a chunk of the industry placement can be carried out remotely for the first two waves, and offered employers £1,000 cash incentives to take on students.

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.

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  1. Dan Jones

    Of the 2,003 placements brokered in 2024/25, my College will need half of those please – so good luck to the rest of you!

    If I read this correctly, these are ‘placements’ – not employers. So in theory, using the same year they could get just 200 employers offering 10 placements each. So hardly making a dent in the volumes required.

    I would hope that the DfE contract will also be geographically minded, so they have to look further than the confines of the M25. Maybe it should be informed by the countless pieces of feedback provides as to where this company should direct its efforts.

    Makes you think doesn’t it – the previous article that states that fewer BTECs will be defunded, plus the refusal to states the advice given on suitable numbers of employers, plus take-up is well below planned expectation despite all the assurances given to Treasury, plus we’re fast approaching the first-set of results from Phase 1 rollout of T levels which of course they’ll find an excuse not to publish as its the first-year and finally yet more money to be thrown at employers, that maybe, just maybe, gung-ho civil servants and advisers need to find build a bigger coop for when all their chickens come home to roost.

    • Like the previous ‘new diplomas/specialist diplomas’, T levels have not been thought through. The required placement hours are far beyond the capacity of most industry sectors. HE placements already consume most of the available hours. We could never find the required placement hours for BTEC study programmes so why would this be any different. They have already reduced the required hours and I expect we will see a further reduction and as with BTEC study programmes, a watering down of what constitutes a placement – e.g. any work experience will count. It’s not on.