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NSAR welcomes ambitious T-level plans for vocational education

Further investment will be put into technical education with the introduction of ‘T-Levels’ that were announced yesterday in the Spring Budget.

The new programme is designed as an alternative to the further education routes into technical careers like engineering, and will increase the number of hours spent in technical programmes for 16-19 year olds by more than 50%, up to over 900 hours a year on average, and will add a high-quality work placement to ensure students are truly “work ready”.

According to the chancellor, T-Levels will replace and simplify 13,000 or so different qualifications into 15, “clear, career-focused routes”.

The announcement has been welcomed by the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR) – who this week launched its own scheme to manage the placement of rail graduates, apprentices and students - who says that the introduction of a third route into engineering will help solve the skill shortage problem and inspire more talented young people to pursue careers in the rail industry. 

The government hopes that T-Levels will enable young people to leave college with a qualification focused on specific occupations, gain experience in their chosen field, and earn wider employability skills.

The chancellor also explained that maintenance loans would be brought in for schemes at the new Institutes of Technology and National Colleges to ensure greater diversity in applicants trying to gain technical qualifications.

This latest batch of funding into training engineers comes after a set of bursaries were announced for the Doncaster high-speed rail college which will train engineers and railway staff to build and manage the future HS2 network.

Neil Robertson, CEO of NSAR, welcomed the announcement of the investment in new T-levels, which will enhance ambitions for vocational education. 

“As a third route into skilled roles, it is vital but has recently atrophied. If this route for students is reinvigorated, with relevant programmes and student support, then we all benefit,” he said.

“We will strongly encourage this in our promotion work once we see the new programmes emerging. Our labour market intelligence shows we need many more skilled engineers at level 4. So investing in a good vocational education programme is a sensible investment.”

Explaining the scheme, Phillip Hammond said: “There is still a lingering doubt about the parity of esteem attaching to technical education pursued through the further education route.

“Today we end that doubt for good, with the introduction of T-Levels. Thanks to the work of Lord Sainsbury, Baroness Wolf and other experts in this field, we have a blueprint to follow. So today, we will invest to deliver, in full, these game-changing reforms.”

The government also promised to put an additional £500m a year into the education of the country’s 16-19 year olds.

Hammond also announced further funding for STEM qualifications, saying: “To enhance the UK’s position as a world leader in science and innovation, I am allocating £300m of the fund to support the brightest and the best research talent, including support for 1,000 new PhD places and fellowships, focused on STEM subjects.”

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