Employers are being offered up to £25,000 towards “legitimate costs” in what is the Department for Education’s latest move to increase the quality and quantity of industry placements for T Levels.
The department announced in February that £12 million will be set aside for a new T Level employer support fund. More information has been published today, just days before the turn of the new financial year when the new fund goes live.
New guidance reveals that employers can claim up to £25,000 for costs relating to industry placements that start between April 1, 2023 and March 31, 2024. That figure isn’t dependent on the number of placements on offer, nor does it need to be paid back if a placement ends unexpectedly.
Colleges and other T Level providers will be responsible for making the payments to employers and making judgement calls about what to fund and when to make payments.
T Level providers have been allocated a set amount they are able to distribute to employers. Allocations have been based on the number of T Levels students providers have told DfE they have signed up.
Any unspent funds will be clawed back in August 2024.
T Levels include a mandatory industry placement of 45 days or 315 hours with an employer.
Any organisation providing placements is eligible to make a claim, except for government department departments and their arm’s lengths bodies. This means colleges, schools and NHS trusts are technically eligible, but organisations like DfE itself, Ofsted and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education are not.
This includes administrative costs like “setting up processes and procedures” as well as training for existing staff, equipment, insurance and students’ transport.
Claims can’t be made for costs that could otherwise be funded via other streams, such as T Level revenue funding.
Providers are ultimately accountable for what they dish out. A six-weekly data return will include a self-declaration form signed by employers confirming what they have requested the funding for.
Employers won’t be asked to provide evidence for the costs at the point they claim – they merely sign the self-declaration – but DfE said they will conduct random spot checks on providers and employers to check on what’s been claimed.
And if a student drops out early, or the placement ends unexpectedly for any other reason, the DfE said they do not expect employers to pay any money back to the provider, though they can if they wish.
In November, FE Week reported that just £500,000 from a previous £7 million employer support fund – 8 per cent – was used during its previous run from 2019-2022.
That scheme offered firms £750 to cover tangible placement costs in four regions of England, upped to £1,000 per placement in 2021/22.
An evaluation report published last year found that just 843 placements were supported against a target 32,466 with the fund.
Research from earlier in 2022 found that three quarters of employers had not heard of T Levels and only 7 per cent of employers not interested in offering T Level placements would change their mind if offered a £1,000 incentive.
Employer bodies, such as the Federation of Small Businesses, have however called for the reintroduction of employer cash bonuses for T Levels.