Changing the perception of vocational education through the introduction of T Levels

Technical qualifications for young people at 16+

My involvement in developing T Levels in Education and Childcare as an expert panel member, by Dr Joanna Goodman

I was excited at the prospect of developing these new technical qualifications. I believe in greater choice of quality qualifications for young people aimed at equipping them with relevant knowledge and skills valued by employers.  In the UK, unlike in some other countries, for example, Germany, vocational or technical qualifications have been largely undervalued and, up till now, have had a variable record of adequately preparing young people for successful employability.

To remain competitive, all economies require a skilled workforce with the capacity to learn and develop in order to keep up with the changing demands and technological advancements. It is therefore crucial that young people have the opportunity to pursue different high quality routes leading to secure employment. Lord Sainsbury, Chairman of the Independent Panel on Technical Education concluded:

For too long the only educational opportunity that many young people have had is to take technical qualifications that fail to equip them with the knowledge and skills that employers value, and that are needed to progress to higher technical education.

Having been involved with developing T Levels in Education and Childcare, I feel that these qualifications will provide a real opportunity for young people at 16+ to pursue technical education specific to their chosen career.  Whilst there is academic value in studying for a higher education degree, this is an expensive option and too many young people study subjects with little relevance to their future employment. Equally, many jobs do not require a degree level education, where technical qualifications can offer a more suitable preparation. In support of T Levels, Sir Gerry Berragan, Chief Executive, Institute for Apprenticeships said: T Levels signal a real change in the qualifications landscape – offering school leavers an alternative to a purely academic route.

This year, we have seen a slight drop in university applications, which signals a greater need for diversification of qualifications at 16+. I feel that the time is right to introduce new technical qualifications, T Levels, developed by industry experts and focused on extending theoretical knowledge as well as job-specific skills and behaviours. T Levels in Education and Childcare, alongside two other T Levels, will commence in September 2020.

As an expert in education, I am really happy to see the priority given to developing these technical qualifications in the areas of education and childcare. To ensure the best start for all children, a highly skilled workforce is essential. We know that the quality of early years education has an enormous impact on later educational outcomes. It is therefore crucial that appropriately qualified staff work with young children.

I am optimistic about these new technical qualifications. They have been developed by industry experts and in consultation with relevant employers. They will give young people more options at 16+ and provide relevant preparation for a specific career or higher education. By comparison with other vocational qualifications on offer, these new technical qualifications will involve more classroom-based learning, thus offering a better balance between theory (knowledge base) and practice.

T Levels are modern technical qualifications. They have been developed as a gold standard in vocational excellence and, whilst preparing for employability, offer an alternative route to further education or purely academic qualifications.