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Government announces digital 'T-level' to encourage technical skills

A digital T-level has been announced among the first of the new technical qualifications the UK is introducing to tackle technical skills gaps

The government has announced a T-level in digital will be amongst the first three technical qualifications the UK is introducing to increase technical education.

Education secretary Justine Greening announced the first three T-levels to be introduced are construction, digital, and education and childcare.

The idea of developing the new technical qualifications, dubbed T-levels, is to develop more UK talent to fill technical skills gaps in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

“We are transforming technical education in this country, developing our home-grown talent so our young people have the world-class skills and knowledge that employers need,” said Greening.

“As part of making sure the technical education ladder reaches every bit as high as the academic one, I want to see T-levels that are as rigorous and respected as A-levels,” she said.

The T-levels were first announced in 2016, and have received funding to develop technical qualifications equivalent to current A-levels.

These T-levels, the first of which will start in 2020 and be fully introduced by 2022, will lay out technical career paths for young people into related occupations by breaking the qualifications into a number of specialisms which students can select to build the appropriate skills for their desired future careers.

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Content for T-levels will be developed by panels of industry professionals and employers to ensure it properly reflects the skills needed for roles in those particular industries.

Firms such as EDF, Rolls Royce, Fujitsu, Lloyds, Morgan Sindall, Skanska and Morphy Richards have already agreed to take part in developing the curriculum, and students will be required to take part in a work placement to ensure they gain real-world skills outside of the classroom.

Many skilled workers plan to leave the UK in the wake of Brexit, forcing the government to invest in home-grown talent and technical skills to ensure skills gaps do not widen once the UK leaves the European Union.

“As we prepare to leave the EU, it is more important than ever that we create an outstanding further education and skills system, giving all young people the opportunity to fulfil their potential and deliver a better future for our country,” said Greening.

Collaboration needed to develop curriculums

Many agree that in order to ensure students leave the education system with the skills needed to fill empty roles in the technology industry, education providers, the government and those from the tech sector will need to collaborate to develop curriculums and qualifications to match industry needs.

Neil Carberry, CBI’s managing director of people and infrastructure, said: “Businesses will be encouraged by the positive progress on the introduction of T-levels, though there is still much for companies and the government to address together. It’s important these new technical routes are woven into the wider education system from the start, to ensure they are respected and seen to have the same quality as A-levels.”

When new curriculums and qualifications are introduced, it can often take time before parents are confident these qualifications will be valued. Indeed, many parents steer children away from technical careers and towards more traditional roles.

Members of the companies and panels put in place to develop T-levels agree integrating the T-level route into the existing education system from the get-go – to ensure it is seen as a viable alternative to A-levels or university – will require a big effort.

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