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Give companies money to offer T-level placements and boost engineering, government urged

Professional Engineering

The message to government came in a new report, 'Unlocking talent: Ensuring T-levels deliver the workforce of the future' (Credit: Shutterstock)
The message to government came in a new report, 'Unlocking talent: Ensuring T-levels deliver the workforce of the future' (Credit: Shutterstock)

The government should give small and medium businesses (SMEs) financial support to provide T-level placements and help raise awareness to get more employers on board with the newly launched courses, two engineering and manufacturing organisations have said.

EngineeringUK and Make UK also called on the government to develop clear ‘progression maps’ that demonstrate how T-levels work and to establish a T-level industry placement taskforce to support and promote placements.

The message to government came in a new report, Unlocking talent: Ensuring T-levels deliver the workforce of the future, released to coincide with National T-levels Week.

“With a chronic shortage of skilled engineers and technicians to power Britain’s industry, it is critical that more employers get on board with T-levels and offer industry placements, to plug the gap and give UK business the power it needs to compete on the international stage,” the two bodies said.

The report highlights the challenges around engineering and manufacturing T-levels, particularly the industry placement component. It estimates that the courses will require up to 43,500 placements at employers in the sector by 2024/25, but only 9% of employers currently host placements and 12% plan to in the coming year.

A survey of employers found that over half (52%) of respondents had never heard of the financial support available for offering placements, while almost six in 10 (57%) said they had not heard of the tailored advice and hands-on direct support available.

Awareness, cost and capacity remain major barriers, with 44% of engineering and manufacturing businesses saying a lack of staff capacity is the main barrier to delivering industry placements. Time commitment (41%) was the second most significant barrier, while 29% said the fact they already offered apprenticeships was a barrier to them offering T-level placements, rising to 34% of larger businesses.

More than half of employers (55%) said they are open to taking on industry placements in future, however, and 57% said that reinstating the £1,000 financial incentive would make the most notable difference to their ability to offer placements.

“More than ever, the manufacturing industry is crying out for skilled technicians, data scientists and technical operators. The pipeline from the EU has been severely curtailed since the UK left the European Union, so we need to turbo-charge the best quality training in these skills from homegrown talent,” said Bhavina Bharkhada, head of policy and campaigns at Make UK.

“For too long apprenticeships and vocational careers in our great industries have been viewed as second best, and the creation of T-levels as a qualification of choice will go some way in delivering the very best in life opportunities, which is critical to changing perceptions and delivering the skills Britain so badly needs.”

Beatrice Barleon, head of policy and public affairs at EngineeringUK, said: “The UK urgently needs more engineers and technicians to drive innovation and support economic growth as well as our ambitions around net zero. But as it stands, we have far too few young people coming up through the education system wanting and able to move into a career in engineering and manufacturing.

“T-levels are designed to provide young people with a clear pathway into engineering and manufacturing careers, but their success hinges on young people being able to access industry placements as part of their qualification. As it stands, it will be a real challenge to secure the 43,500 placements needed.

“We are therefore urging government to focus on supporting businesses and education providers through offering financial incentives as well as creating the right conditions and frameworks. Doing so will enable them to collaborate efficiently and open up their businesses for young people to learn new skills and develop into the workforce of the future that we so desperately need.”

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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