Spring Budget:T-Levels unveiled

Spring Budget’s’ radical’ post-16 education shakeup will boost
UK’s technical skills

The Chancellor’s Spring Budget has unveiled a new qualification for teenagers – T-levels – which will encourage more youngsters towards vocational training in subjects such as construction, digital, business/administration, engineering and agriculture.

The new T-level (as in “technical”) announced by Philip Hammond also sees the number of hours of training for 16 to 19-year-old students increase by 50%, up to 900 hours a year in total. All students will take part in an industry work placement as part of their course. There is a further boost for students doing higher-level courses at national colleges and Institutes of Technology in the form of maintenance grants similar to those available to university students.

The “radical” overhaul of the education system – the 15 courses replace the current 13,000 available options – will begin in 2019 and is expected to be fully in place by 2020, backed by a £500m spend.

Responding to the Chancellor’s Spring Budget Statement, Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The Chancellor clearly understands that the UK won’t address the productivity challenge unless we rethink our approach to technical and vocational education. T-Levels could be the answer if they genuinely rival A-Levels in the eyes of parents, teachers and young people. UK society as a whole has been guilty of putting too much emphasis on the academic route – this has made it more difficult for vital sectors like construction and house building to attract the talented people we need. In construction, we are suffering from a severe skills shortage and this is likely to worsen once we leave the EU and no longer have easy access to European labour. This £500 million funding announced today for T-Levels is therefore a welcome and much-needed boost.”

Berry concluded: “Today’s Budget was an all-round strong performance from the Chancellor and he had good news to report right across the piece. However, increasing tax on the self-employed is not helpful. If we want to establish a resilient, Brexit-proof economy, we must encourage and support our current and future entrepreneurs in the construction industry and beyond. A jump in National Insurance Contributions from 1% to 10% next year could send the wrong message to those individuals who are considering going it alone. The self-employed are the backbone of our economy and the Government should tread carefully here.”

The Chancellor also announced improved funding for transport infrastructure via the National Productivity Investment Fund, including £690m for new local transport projects to improve road congestion and public transport and £220m to improve congestion on national roads.

The vital need to develop the UK’s apprentice scheme will be discussed at the FE Week Annual Apprenticeship Conference & Exhibition at the ICC, Birmingham on March 22-24. For further details go to http://feweekaac.com.

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