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T Level construction qualification provider competition launched

An tender has now been published to appoint exclusive providers to design and assess new technical qualifications that will includes a new approach to construction training

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a bidding competition to select organisations that will develop, deliver and award three initial T Level qualifications launching in September 2020.

Construction will be one of the first three disciplines supported via the T Level programme, with digital, as well as education and childcare focuses also being offered as part of a more technical approach to education.

An Invitation to Tender that will be open until October 26 has now been published for interested parties wishing to deliver one of the first three subjects. Contracts are expected to be awarded by March next year through the tender process.

Bidders chosen through the competition process will then be charged to exclusively deliver the programmes in two years’ time as part of recommendations set out in an independent review of technical education undertaken by Lord Sainsbury in 2016.

The government has said that the base outline of the new qualifications, which will be offered to students in 2020 who are just now starting their GCSEs, was developed as part of an open and collaborative approach with industry. This has included sharing draft procurements documents to ensure a clearer and more straight forward tender process.

Collaboration with industry is expected to continue throughout the life cycle of the new qualification with some 200 employers having consulted the DfE on the T Levels. Pilots projects were established with 2,000 people that resulted in them being put in special work placements as part of this work.

Any qualification providers selected during the competition will be required to determine the necessary qualification specifications and how these qualities will be assessed at schools and colleges.

Anne Milton, minister of apprenticeships and skills, said it was vital to find organisations with the “right vision” to ensure the reforms of technical education were successful.

Industry response 

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, added that the T Level programme was intended to ensure high quality training to help young people progress in their chosen career.

He said, “The co-creation of the qualifications, with employers and colleges, will obviously be a pivotal part of the implementation, so it is a good sign that this is on time and on track.”

John Cope, head of education and skills at the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI), said the organisation would continue to work with education authorities on ensuring the correct delivery of the qualifications.

He added, “A high-quality, technical equivalent to A Levels is a vital, missing link in our education system that employers welcome, so it’s positive to see real progress on the design and delivery of T Levels.”

The announcement of the tender competition comes as some individuals working across the HVAC industry have warned of ongoing problems to find apprenticeship spaces for the number of individuals seeking a qualification in the heating sector.

Particular concern has been raised about the delivery of theory-only diplomas that lack sufficient on-site experience for students. It has been argued that this has limited the number of individuals able to claim NVQs and potentially find jobs.

Questions therefore remain among some stakeholders over whether T Levels will address these concerns without ensuring the require number of apprenticeships.

Tracey Richardson, the recently elected president of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), told H&V News that she hopes the new technical qualification would better prepare any potential candidates wanting to enter the plumbing and heating industry at an earlier stage.

She said, “By this I would hope that some of the skills such as functional skills are already gained before the candidate then embarks on an apprenticeship. Many apprentices currently entering the trade, may be really good with their practical skills, but then struggle with the functional and theoretical skills and start to get disillusioned or feel let down in some way.”

“I often find that you can divide learner groups into 3 areas; Those who want to be there and are more than capable; those who want to be there and need the extra support; and those who don’t want to be there, but it may be due to family connections/pressure that they continue. Hopefully, T levels can show their potential at an early stage, and if this becomes evident that it isn’t their ‘destiny’ they have the time to embark on a more appropriate path before it is too late.”

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