The manufacturing sector is at the heart of the country’s productivity and prosperity, so it is crucial the sector has a strong pipeline of young talent coming through. We know that persistent skills gaps, shortages and being able to recruit the right people at all skill levels are a significant concern for businesses.
T Levels are one of the most recent additions to the post-16 education landscape, designed with employers from across the sector specifically to address these concerns. Engineering and Manufacturing T Levels were introduced in 2022 and sit between A Levels and apprenticeships in the landscape, aiming to provide students with a world-class technical education alongside an industry placement. The curriculum is up-to-date and aligned to relevant engineering and manufacturing occupational standards, so the skills students learn are helpful across the industry – from producing and interpreting drawings, building models and simulations using CAD software to quality control, fault finding and risk assessment.
For manufacturing businesses, the 45-day industry placement is a crucial part of the qualification, giving young people direct experience of the workplace, whilst offering employers the chance to test – and shape – the students’ skills to see if they are a good fit for their business. The placement is built to be flexible and suit the employer as it can be shared with another employer, completed in blocks or by day release, and, for a certain amount of time, take place in simulated environments if required. Crucially, it gives businesses the chance to highlight opportunities in the sector to a much larger, younger pool of students before they decide their post-18 next steps.
The quality and calibre of the T Level qualification means students could step into a Level 3 (accelerated), Level 4 or Higher Level Apprenticeship, so businesses will potentially have an employee with the right skillset even faster. In the inaugural year of the engineering and manufacturing route, this has been the case for a number of manufacturers across England. HepcoMotion – a linear motion and automation manufacturer in based in Devon – are a great example of successfully developing their pipeline of talent through the T Level qualification.
Across the sector we have witnessed a promising start to the T Level rollout and employers are starting to see the benefits, but there is always more to be done. Our recent research indicates that more than 1 in 10 manufacturers who have not previously provided placements are seeking to do so this year, demonstrating that whilst some businesses are taking this opportunity to invest early in their future talent, others risk missing out on the opportunities that T Levels offer. To ensure the success of the E&M T Level, all students need comprehensive industry placements that will help them accelerate into further apprenticeships. Only employers have the power to make this happen, and to make the best of their opportunity to inspire the next generation of talent to join their workforce.