Greening: T-Levels will ‘create an army of skilled young people for British business’

Education secretary Justine Greening will today plead with businesses to help develop and deliver T-Levels, as part of an overhaul of vocational education from aged 16.

Speaking to business leaders at the British Chambers of Commerce Education summit in London, Ms Greening is expected to tell the audience: “I want to create an army of skilled young people for British business. But I need your help. Government can’t do it alone.

“Because that’s what we need, never more than now. A skills revolution for Brexit Britain. That’s the real strategy on migration.

“Great companies need great people. And my department has a mission to give our young people the very best start – to become those great people.”

In March, the Treasury announced a £500m annual investment in T-Levels, to increase teaching time for 16 to 18-year-olds by a third and include up to three months of work-placements.

However, as FE Week reported at the time, T-Levels won’t start to be taught until at least September 2019 and won’t be fully-rolled out until 2022.

So the £500m annual investment will begin in 2022 and prior to that it is being phased in, with the first installment of £65m coming in April 2018, more than a year before any of the new courses are taught.

This should not be seen as additional or new funding, something the Department for Education accept, as it was first announced in the Budget in March (image below).

The DfE has today said that of the £65 million, £50 million will be “spent on high quality work placements” with the remaining £15 million used to “contribute to improvements in further education”.

But when FE Week asked for detail on how this £65m would all be spent, or who would receive the funding, the DfE were unable to say. 

The DfE is desperate for help from firms to not only develop the content for the T-Levels within up to 15 vocational routes, but to also deliver the “substantial work-placements” from between one and three months (140 and 460 hours).

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 DfE has already begun research into work-placements, with projects delivered by the Learning and Work Institute (see here) and The Challenge (see here).

In addition, Ms Greening will announce the current FE commissioner – Richard Atkins – will take on responsibility for sixth form colleges as well as general FE colleges.

Noticeably absent from the DfE press release was any reference to plans to invest £170 million capital funding to establish Institutes of Technology.

The government first announced plans for the institutes in July 2015, then again in its post-16 skills plan in July 2016, and then announced the £170 million capital fund in January of this year.

Since then only a leaked document has provided clues, followed by a mention in the Conservative manifesto but in a move that confused many in the sector, it referred to the work of universities.

However, in response to a written parliamentary question from Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner this week, Skills Minister Anne Milton said: “As part of our Industrial Strategy, we will launch a call for proposals to establish new Institutes of Technology later this year. The number of new institutions we approve will depend on the quality and number of bids we receive.”

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