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Careers Column 5: T Levels – coming to a college near you!

19 July 2017

Throughout the summer our expert Advice Team is running a special Careers Column in the Gloucester Citizen, Gloucestershire Echo and Forest Citizen, offering advice to young people and their parents on the important factors to consider when making decisions about their education and future careers.

If you didn't catch it in the paper, don't worry - we will be posting the articles here on the GC news page every Wednesday.

Read the full article below or click on the image to see it as it appears in the newspaper.


T Levels – coming to a college near you!

By Steve Weldon, Advice and Guidance Manager

The government has set in motion a set of reforms that are being hailed as the biggest shake up in education in a generation.

The changes are aimed at improving both the quality and relevance of technical qualifications, as recommended by the widely praised Sainsbury Review. The reforms will be achieved by bringing greater contrast between the academic A Levels route and the more technical employer-led sector specific qualifications - studied as a full-time college course or as part of an apprenticeship.

Currently there are around 13,000 ‘vocational’ qualifications available to students in the UK - such as BTEC, CACHE, and Cambridge Technicals. Under the reforms, these will be reviewed and streamlined to provide clear progression routes leading to 15 occupational sectors. These new qualifications will be referred to as ‘T Levels’.

What’s a ‘T Level’?

The two-year T Levels will be advanced full-time college courses incorporating technical skills, plus English and maths at GCSE level and will include a relevant three-month work experience placement.

T Level qualifications in each of the 15 sector-based routes will be created through consultation with industry experts, to ensure that the skills taught are relevant to the needs of the labour market.  The 15 sector areas are:

  • Agriculture, environmental and animal care
  • Business and administration
  • Catering and hospitality
  • Childcare and education
  • Construction
  • Creative and design
  • Digital
  • Engineering and manufacturing
  • Hair and beauty
  • Health and science
  • Legal, finance and accounting
  • Protective services
  • Sales, marketing and procurement
  • Social care
  • Transport and logistics


How will T Levels be taught?

The number of timetabled hours that a T Level student will have in their programme will increase significantly from 540 to 900 hours per year and will incorporate a work placement taking place over a minimum of three months.

Current thinking is that a full-time student will spend four days in college and one day in the workplace each week – the opposite to many apprentices, who spend four days in work and one day in college each week.

Why do we need T Levels?

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, on average 50% of young people in developed countries follow vocational routes to work. In Germany the proportion is close to 75%.  In the UK, it is just 30%.

The current range of vocational qualifications in the UK is overly complicated and undervalued – these reforms will refresh and upgrade the training options available, developing parity with established academic routes.

While the overall UK unemployment rate is currently at 4.6%, the figure for 19-24 year-olds is12.7%, so qualifications with a clear route to the workplace will help young people progress into the world of employment.

Who will T Levels be for?

T Levels will be available to all 16 year olds following their GCSEs and entry criteria is likely to be similar to A Levels.  For those who need to improve their grades before starting a qualification, there will be the option to take a ‘transition year’ within one of the 15 sector areas.

Those choosing T Levels will need to be able to identify their preferred broad sector of interest - so high quality careers education and guidance will be essential to support young people to make a well informed choice.  

What will they lead to?

Once complete, T Level students will be able to progress to a Higher or Degree level apprenticeship or Higher Education at a university or college, as the new system builds in the opportunity to switch between the academic and technical pathways.

T Levels will provide students with a deep understanding of the work involved and opportunities available in their chosen field of work, along with the skills required by employers.

When will they be available?

Students will be able to start T Level courses in September 2019 so it’s important that young people starting GCSEs next year, as well as their parents and teachers, understand their progression options.

It’s never too early to start thinking about the pathways available to help you to reach your goals and the Advice Team at Gloucestershire College is here to help.

You can email us at or call us on 01452 563210.

Why Gloucestershire College?

We have a lot of experience offering Apprenticeships and work-related training. We have industry-standard facilities and experienced teaching staff which provide the ideal complement to work-based learning.

We are here to help

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