T Levels success at York College has not come easily. There has been a carefully considered approach to promoting our technical education mission within York and North Yorkshire and this has resulted in a momentum being built that has established ourselves as one of the leading providers of T Level education.
As one of the early T Level adopters, our approach started with an attempt to educate people about the qualification. Initially, this was an internal exercise, but it very quickly extended to parents, potential students, and (potentially most significantly) key members of staff in secondary schools.
As the T Level brand became more established, we started to focus on the quality of delivery. Successful applications for capital grants allowed us to carefully invest in our facilities so they could be sector-leading in the areas offering T Levels, such as the current extension work that is being carried out on our construction centre.
It centred too on supporting staff to upskill where necessary by accessing the support available from the Education and Training Foundation’s professional development programmes. In some areas, we have also made investments in specialist staff to teach the highly technical content of T Levels, for example employing registered nurses as dual professionals so that our health T Level students benefit from current practice and knowledge.
Meanwhile, we leverage good news stories locally, whether that has been excellent results achieved by students, the case studies provided to us by employers, or interviews with T Level students who have successfully completed the qualification.
We have also promoted what our students have gone on to do after completing their studies, such as higher-level apprenticeships, securing employment and progressing to university, including extensive work between the delivery team at the college and university admissions co-ordinators to ensure the value of T Levels is recognised in their entry criteria.
The factor that has had the biggest impact on our T Level offer, though, is the work we have done with fantastic employers. Our partnership work with them has allowed us to ensure that they are fully aware of the support that they can offer to us as a college and the benefits that a T Level placement student can have on their business.
Of course, the employer support fund has helped to facilitate industry placements, but what we have found is this has not been the determining factor in terms of whether someone takes a student on industry placement from York College or not.
Instead, it is the focus on providing meaningful and supportive industry placements for highly enthusiastic, skilled students – and getting employers to recognise the value that such a student can bring to their organisation – that has been a game-changer in the way that we have been able to engage with employers.
Our work to promote T Levels and ensure healthy recruitment has not stopped. Just last week, we held an afternoon T Level party with careers and guidance advisors from our feeder secondary schools to ensure that they were aware of the developments in our T Level offer and for us to share the good news stories that we have about our T Level successes.
Our recent focus on the purpose and development of our level 2 programmes has involved changing the curriculum offered so that potential T Level students develop the knowledge and skills they need to progress. For example, we have introduced a mathematics for engineering option on our level 2 programmes to ensure students have the higher-level mathematics skills they need to be successful.
There is a belief among staff at York College that T Levels are the ideal technical learning platform for students to develop their knowledge, skills and understanding of subjects that directly link to their future employment opportunities.