First T Level students: Where are they now?

Controversial industry placements were the most popular element of T Levels for the first cohort that completed them

Controversial industry placements were the most popular element of T Levels for the first cohort that completed them

26 Apr 2024, 11:14

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Controversial industry placements of at least 315 hours are the most “important element” in preparing T Level students for their next steps.

That is the conclusion of new government-commissioned research that tracked the progress of 477 of the 1,300 students involved in wave one of the flagship qualification rollout.

The learners began their courses in 2020 and completed in 2022. The first T Levels available were in education and childcare, construction and digital.

Researchers interviewed the students 10 months after they finished their courses to find out where they progressed to.

Here are the highlights:

Destinations vary by route

Overall, nine in 10 of the first cohort of T Level students moved into paid work or higher education:

  • 44 per cent were studying for a university degree
  • 40 per cent were in paid work
  • 13 per cent were on an apprenticeship

But researchers found destinations “varied substantially” by T Level route.

For example, almost all education and childcare students ended up in paid work (52 per cent) or studying for a degree (46 per cent) with only 1 per cent taking an apprenticeship.

Students who took construction T Levels were most likely to be in paid work (37 per cent) but an almost even split went on to an apprenticeship (32 per cent) or a degree (30 per cent).

Most students who took T Levels in digital progressed to a degree course (51 per cent). Nearly a quarter went on to paid work (23 per cent) and 19 per cent started an apprenticeship.

Former T Level students that made up the 7 per cent not in education, employment or training said they were looking for an apprenticeship or were taking a gap year.

Placements made the most difference

One of the most controversial elements of T Levels is the requirement of every student to complete a 315-hour industry placement. Sector leaders question how the government is going to find enough employers to host the placements each year when the courses are offered at scale.

However, students who completed the first T Levels valued the placements over any other part of the course, according to the research.

Learners who went on to further study were more likely to agree that the T Level helped them progress (89 per cent), compared to those who went on to work (73 per cent).

The industry placement was the highest-ranked element of the T Level programme that best prepared students for their next steps by those in work and still in education. Construction students found the industry placement the most beneficial, followed by education and childcare and then digital.

After the industry placement, the next most important element was reported be technical knowledge, followed by practical skills.

Education and childcare students were less likely to say the employer-set project element was “an important element” on their T Level. Just 23 per cent of those students said it prepared them for work or study, compared to 35 per cent of construction students and 43 per cent of digital students.

Only a third of former T Level students who are now in work said their employers were ‘very’ (10 per cent) or ‘quite’ (25 per cent) knowledgeable about T Levels. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) said their employer ‘had not heard’ of T Levels.

Jobs from placements

Students with construction T Levels were the most likely to land a job or an apprenticeship with the organisation they took their industry placement with.

Researchers found that 14 per cent of digital T Level students who progressed to work or an apprenticeship went to their industry placement organisation. That figure was 34 per cent for education and childcare and 39 per cent for construction.

More broadly, 75 per cent of T Level completers reported they were working or studying within a field related to their course. But just under a fifth (18 per cent) said they went on to a different sector, with most of them saying they had no plans to return to their subject.

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