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13 March 2017

T levels can help tackle skills gap

According to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, delivered a major boost for vocational training in his Budget last week.

According to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, delivered a major boost for vocational training in his Budget last week.

Mr Hammond announced £500m to develop new ‘T Levels’ in 15 vocational categories, including engineering and construction. Promising to take an “agile and bold” approach, he said backing vocational training was crucial to tackling the UK’s poor productivity, which in turn would support the development of a more prosperous and inclusive society.

He said high productivity jobs are high wage jobs and that to grow its economy the UK needed to compete with the world “on the basis of superior talent and skills, not just lower costs”.

Tony Howard, BESA’s training director, welcomed the move and said it would help to underpin the work the association is doing to help building engineering employers address skills shortages by developing a range of new Trailblazer apprenticeships in England; while also driving forward training standards in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

T Levels, which will be developed between now and 2022, are designed to give technical subjects equal status alongside A levels, so that students pursuing a vocational route are not disadvantaged in the eyes of potential employers or dissuaded from taking a non-academic path by their parents.

In addition, the Chancellor announced £300m to support 1,000 new PhD places and fellowships in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects. He added that the number of hours of training for technical students aged 16 to 19 would be increased by more than 50%, including a high-quality, three-month work placement.

“T Levels fit neatly with the government’s ongoing support for Trailblazer apprenticeships, and will provide further help in developing the stream of new talent coming into STEM professions,” said Mr Howard.  “Apprenticeships are a natural progression from T Levels.”

He added that apprenticeships delivered proven business benefits to employers quoting research carried out by BESA’s training department, which revealed that 70% of employers believe their productivity, and therefore business growth, is improved by taking on apprentices.

Every £1 of taxpayers’ money invested in apprenticeships at levels 2 and 3 pays back between £26 and £28 in long-term economic benefits, according to the Association, and 83% of apprentices believe their career prospects have improved as a result of securing a place on an apprenticeship scheme.

The Association is developing Trailblazers across a wide range of technical sectors and at a variety of levels including: installation; service & maintenance; ductwork; ventilation hygiene; refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps; and has also started work on developing apprenticeships at higher and degree level.

BESA is also developing Trailblazers for the domestic plumbing and heating sectors and announced it would be working with the newly launched Plumbing and Heating Skills Partnership to support the particular needs of its heating and plumbing members. 

Mr Howard pointed out that the Chancellor’s announcement was timely as it was made during National Apprenticeship Week 2017, which is designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses, social inclusion, and the wider economy.

For more information email: training@thebesa.com; or visit: www.thebesa.com/training

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