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Stewart Watts


Vice President EMEA

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Embracing the T Level revolution

The pilot for adult T Levels began in September so what are the challenges, purpose and future of the course?
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September 2022 marked the start of a two-year trial for the new T Level qualification for adults. Education chiefs are looking to test the flagship qualifications on 150 older learners ahead of a potential 2025 rollout. The technical skill courses are currently available in 11 colleges across the country, covering subjects such as digital skills, construction, education, and health and science.

These T Levels have been designed to enable ‘older learners’ to top up their skills or pursue new career paths in light of ongoing skills challenge and talent gaps reported across major UK industries. In fact, it is expected that adult learners will complete a skills scan before undertaking the qualification. These courses differ from traditional qualifications, such as A Levels, as they offer students the opportunity to put the skills that they learn in the classroom into practice in the workplace through placements. 

Technology is developing at a pace, outmoding certain job roles and function

Modern business challenges and lifelong learning  

The workplace demographic has changed. An ageing population, the rising cost of living and some people’s natural inclination to stay in work for longer means workforces are now likely to comprise more mature employees than before.

At the same time, technology is developing at a pace, outmoding certain job roles and functions. Employees must realise by now that reskilling will remain a constant feature of their entire working lives. The demand for new training programmes and reskilling initiatives will continue to grow. 

Looking to the future, businesses will need to provide staff with far more opportunities to retrain throughout their career, and colleges will be required to update their courses accordingly to ensure students are better prepared to enter the job market. These courses are indicative of the government's response to ongoing skills gaps and recruitment challenges.

Workers will need to top up their skills periodically over their careers, in response to increased job automation and future innovation. By designing a course specifically for older learners, the government is clearly responding to business leaders’ demand for talent and publicly acknowledging the importance of lifelong learning.  

Improving industry partnerships

For these courses to be effective, particularly for older learners who may be returning to the classroom, all subject matter experts should be involved in the design phase. Modularity, or an omnichannel approach toward education and training, will be essential. 

Working with industry, institutions can ensure desirable skills are embedded within their curriculum and delivered across all courses. Similarly, organisations can offer insight into how to design programmes that cater to lifelong learners. After all, businesses will require far more flexible short courses that enable current employees to easily re-enter the education system and attain new skills periodically, depending on current business challenges. 

There is also room for greater collaboration between government, education, and enterprise

Together, all parties can ensure that more technical skills are accounted for, matching T Level programmes to real business needs. As the T Level pilot begins to take form, businesses could potentially deliver rapid upskilling in targeted areas through shorter courses. Organisations could put employees forward for a particular course if they have identified areas of improvement, or if staff are looking to expand their skill set. 

Implementation and course design 

Delivering an entirely new qualification takes time, especially when adapting courses to cater to lifelong learners. The first challenge will be enrolment and course flexibility. Businesses should also make it easy for their employees to return to education by allowing flexible, or part-time working, and colleges should provide options for part-time learning to make these courses more accessible for parents and those with other responsibilities. 

Students should be able to learn anytime, anywhere, and most importantly, at their pace, but designing courses in this way takes time. Governments, businesses and educational institutions will have to be patient and constantly review their programmes to ensure student engagement is maximised.

With micro-credentials, more technical skills and competencies can be compartmentalised into different categories, and course leaders can design more tailored learning programmes for specific individuals. They will be able condense skills and abilities into bite-size chunks, where individuals’ results can be quantified and measured. Skills can then be more closely matched to individual job roles and specific learner needs. 

There is also room for greater collaboration between government, education, and enterprise, especially if we are to make future T Level courses more workable and ensure that the uptake increases. Businesses have a responsibility here too and should encourage their employees to challenge themselves and take charge of their own learning and career progression.  

Room for improvement – planning for the 2025 cohort 

It is great to see the government extend T Levels to an older audience; it shows that the relationship between the business world and education is becoming more intertwined as we look to answer the more complex business challenges. By 2025, industry experts should be working far more closely with colleges and institutions to help shape course design.

Naturally, course leaders will have to employ programmatic learning techniques to answer the more complex business challenges and develop future cohorts’ technical knowledge. This pilot presents an opportunity to test the waters and map out a more effective learning strategy. 

With shorter, continuous, action-based blended learning programmes, students will be able to test the knowledge that they learn in the classroom in the real world

With shorter, continuous, action-based blended learning programmes, students will be able to test the knowledge that they learn in the classroom in the real world. Course leaders should be aiming to develop knowledge and expertise over time, exposing the learner to a depth and breadth of information through a variety of content. By doing so, they will be able to better understand how a particular skill will relate to their day-to-day work.   

Furthermore, course leaders should ensure that they are using all the technology they have available to them. By employing innovations such as data analytics throughout these programmes, they will be able to identify where students are progressing, what skills need to be accounted and how this can be delivered more effective across all courses and work placements.  

Interested in this topic? Read Will T Levels solve the skills gap?

Author Profile Picture
Stewart Watts

Vice President EMEA

Read more from Stewart Watts

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