Employers already experiencing work placement ‘fatigue’, DfE commissioned research reveals

Research commissioned by the Department for Education has found that employers may already be experiencing work placement ‘fatigue’ – even before the government’s reforms to technical education have kicked in.

The report, published today by the Learning and Work Institute and published this morning, addressed one of the key issues in the development of the new T-level qualifications – the introduction of a one- to three-month work placement for every learner.

“The evidence suggests that further investment will need to be made to increase providers’ capacity to successfully engage employers and boost the number and range of work placements offered to the levels described in the Skills Plan,” the report said.

But it added: “Concerns were raised at the workshops that employers may already experience fatigue as a result of the number of requests they receive from learning providers, and that a more coordinated approach will be necessary to ensure this issue is not exacerbated.”

It comes as Justine Greening addressed business leaders at the British Chambers of Commerce education summit in London today on the government’s plans to reform technical education, as outlined in last year’s Skills Plan.

These included a commitment of £50 million from April 2018 to fund “high quality work placements – a key component of every T-level – to help prepare young people for skilled work”.

This was not new money, but was instead part of the cash previously announced by the Treasury, which would see £500 million annual investment in T-levels from 2022.

The funding is being phased in, with £65 million coming in April 2018 – enough to cover the work placements commitment, with the remaining £15 million being used to “contribute to improvements in further education”.

Concerns have been raised across the sector about the difficulty in securing enough good quality work placements.

A key issue will be how to persuade thousands of businesses around England to offer the work-placements, something which is likely to require financial incentives.

Sufficient availability of local work-placements and travel costs could also be a major barrier for policy makers to overcome.

The LWI’s report was one of two projects commissioned by the DfE to look into work placements.

The institute, in partnership with workforce development body Fair Train, was charged with looking into what effective practice in work placements looks like and how it can be scaled up to the level required by T-levels, as well as identifying any challenges.

As well as calling for extra investment, it also recommended a “nationally mandated set of standards and guidance for implementation, moderation and assessment of work placements”, to ensure “a consistent approach across the country and ensure parity of learning for young people”.

The second project will be delivered by social cohesion charity The Challenge, and will focus on developing model work placement projects, based on research into existing good substantial work placements.

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  1. David Harbourne

    “A more coordinated approach will be necessary…” Every local area could have a shared service to broker work experience placements. You could call them – ooh, let’s see – Education Business Partnerships. How’s that for a fresh idea?

  2. Ex FE Lecturer

    Again we have a ‘once in a generation’ innovative new plan for technical education and the 14-19 diploma experience has been forgotten. The great and good think this system will be better – surely employers are crying out for work placement students. What could possibly go wrong, especially as they are called T-levels and sound so similar to A-Levels?
    Employers are bombarded with requests for work experience from:
    – School pupils
    – FE College/sixth form students
    – University students
    At the same time these employers may be running apprenticeships and graduate schemes or trying to start up a new apprenticeship scheme since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.
    Whilst work experience is a good idea it needs to be accepted that few employers are interested or able to help. Compulsory work experience should not be introduced as it is simply not achievable and could lead to some students not completing qualifications despite ability, aptitude and successful completion of all college based assessments.
    When will government listen to experienced industry professionals and educators instead of relying on their Oxbridge educated advisors who have never set foot in an FE college or industrial environment?

  3. Deb Chowney

    Here we go again! Did the government learn nothing from the failed diplomas? They have failed to listen for the last 25 years and are still paying for academics to produce reports, that duplicate the reports from 5, 10, 15 years plus and say absolutely nothing that is new and as for innovative, don’t get me started on this! I’ve talked and challenged until I am blue in the face (and often unpopular for upsetting the apple cart) but I care about students and what comes next in their lives. I’ve attended EBP Conferences, where I have challenged many of these well paid organizations, with whom the government have contintued to commission reports and have failed to get them to deal with the real issues. The issues – the recruitment, quality and expectations of the students on the programmes – will they be of the standard employers are happy to host, or the students the college can actually recruit onto their limited range of options? Travel – costs kill placements, end of, so why offer courses that don’t reflect the reality of the workplaces that exist? Employers – should be engaged with far in advance of requiring a placement and be a key part of the process, but they never are, as placement coordinators are often poorly paid, part time and have no interaction with the students, or even get to actually visit the employers. Many have no awareness of the course itself. I could go on and on …. Quality – why isn’t his foremost in this delivery? Excuse the rant, but anyone who has been involved in this as a broker, and cares about what they do, probably feels the same!