Academic routes are not the only path to success, and with a shortage of new talent entering the construction industry, it is more important than ever to find an alternative way of learning to bridge the gap. The introduction of T Levels – technical education programmes for young people aged 16 to 18 – have been billed as the solution. Jackie Biswell from Apex Roofing, gives her view.
The construction industry is facing a recruitment crisis. During one of the worst economic downturns in recent memory in 2008, building contracted by 16.5%. Although the sector recovered and work was plentiful, the workforce was no longer there to carry it out.
It is not only the recession that has given cause for concern. There is still uncertainty over Brexit. Whether we leave or remain, the future for existing migrant workers in the UK is unknown and employing overseas workers will no doubt be a more complicated process.
Another threat to the industry is the prediction that 400,000 construction workers will retire in the next decade. And that statistic is not matched by the numbers of new talent entering the trade;
essentially, the old guard will be leaving and there will not be enough new workers to fill the void.
The new generation
A report from the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) revealed that the construction industry needs to find 157,000 new recruits by 2021 to be able to keep up with the increasing demand.
At a time when major national infrastructure projects are taking place and there is an ever-growing demand for skilled workers, it is crucial that a new generation of construction workers are recruited to address the skills gap.
Previously, one of the key initiatives from the industry and government has been apprenticeships.
In April 2017, changes in apprenticeship funding were introduced meaning the funding of new apprenticeships now comes from an apprenticeship levy rather than taxpayers.
The Government’s aim was to boost productivity by investing in human capital, developing vocational skills and increasing both the quality and quantity of apprenticeships.
Between August and October 2017, only 114,400 young people began apprenticeships – substantially less than the 155,300 reported in the same three months in 2016.
Apprenticeships are often seen as a fall back for those who cannot or do not want to study for A-levels or go for university. There needs to be a greater emphasis placed on vocational learning and that’s where the T Level comes in.
What is the T Level?
More than £500million a year will be spent on the new-style technical courses which provide an alternative route into work.
T Levels will become one of the main choices for students after GCSEs alongside apprenticeships for students who want to learn a specific occupation on the job and A-levels for those who want to continue with academic education.
The T Level, which will last for two years, will be the equivalent to three A Levels, include at least 45 days of industry placement and the students will receive a grade upon completion.
The qualification will be based on the same occupational standards as apprenticeships which are designed by employers.
T Level panels, which consist of employers, professional bodies and providers, have worked together to develop the curriculum to ensure the content meets the needs of the industry and prepares students for the world of work.
The first of the new T Level courses will start in September 2020 with construction being one of the 15 chosen sectors.
It is expected that the construction T Level will be broken down into sub-categories of skills for jobs such as bricklayer, carpenter/joiner, construction supervisor and electrician.
Will it be a success?
The construction industry is crying out for skilled workers and the T Level has been created with the intention of garnering a new generation of young workers with valuable industry skills.
The new qualification has, of course, been welcomed and criticised by various sectors, but we think it is a positive step to plug the widening skills gap by actively supporting those who do not take the A-level, apprenticeship or university route into their career.
What are your thoughts on T Levels? Email the Editor firstname.lastname@example.org /@TotContractorUK