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James Norris, Assistant Principal at Walsall College tells Prosper why it’s time to sit up and take notice of T Levels.

Education providers and employers are arguably at a critical juncture in terms of what more we can do to bridge gaps in skills attainment, increase access to opportunities and future-proof our industries.


“This is why it’s time to sit up and take notice of T Levels,” said James. “When they arrive in September 2020, starting with Childcare, Construction and Digital, the T Levels will act as a game-changer in the UK’s efforts to maintain a world-class technical education system.


“We believe these qualifications demonstrate how technical qualifications are a viable route towards a Higher-Level Apprenticeship and a degree, a T Level qualification is equivalent to three A-Levels, making them equally as effective in securing employment,” he told us. “The calibre of T Levels lies in them being employer-led from beginning to end.”

Amazon, KPMG, Fujitsu, Skanska and the NHS are just some of the organisations that have ensured T Levels meet industry needs and prepare students for work.  The unique format – 80% classroom theory and practical learning plus 20% industry placement – means businesses will go even further to support young adults pursuing this training route.

The industry placement is equivalent to 315 hours.  In light of their crucial role, Walsall College has this year delivered a pilot programme around them.  “48 employers welcomed 65 students for a period of around 45 days. This enabled us to understand how the placements work in a range of employer settings and to develop best practice,” continued James.

“The mutual benefits of these placements cannot be underestimated.  Feedback from our pilot programme proved that employers recognised the potential in creating a local talent pipeline for entry-level jobs and specialist roles, reducing their recruitment costs.  

“A number of learners actually took up roles with their placement company after completing their studies.  It also emerged that for businesses with apprentices attending college on day release, a T Level student could help infill roles, therein maintaining company productivity and efficiency levels.”

T Levels are described as a ‘once in a generation opportunity to reform technical education’.  The industry placement is a make or break component of them.


“We understand that for many businesses, providing work experience of this scale is a big commitment, particularly if you have never done it before. Although a 315-hour placement might seem overwhelming, it needn’t be.  There is some flexibility around the format. 

“Walsall College continues to be proactive in building employers’ understanding around T Levels in order to remove any barriers to involvement.  The government has also pledged £0.5 billion annual investments in these programmes to support their roll out over the next few years.


“Our Construction T Level in partnership with Balfour Beatty VINCI is just one example of the way the college and an employer are giving students the best possible career start.  We are also collaborating with those in our local childcare and digital sectors in readiness for next year.

“By 2023, there will be 25 T Levels in operation covering all industry areas from business to health science to engineering.


“We urge employers to make industry placements a vital component of your recruitment and development strategy so that T Levels achieve what they have set out to.  And of course, we ask that you reach out to providers like ourselves for advice and support.

“Let’s make sure that these opportunities to grow and recruit individuals with the right skills, as well as to widen participation and diversify workforces do not go amiss.”