How young people can find out what a career is really like

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TAKING on a young person while they are studying at school or college can be hugely rewarding for employers. 

A T Level industry placement is a brilliant way to find out what a real career is like when you’re 16 to 19 years old. 

It can truly encourage enthusiastic, talented young people to enter their profession of choice, while employers nurture the next workforce generation and benefit from the newcomers’ help while they develop their skills.

Learn and earn: Midland Metro Alliance’s Rose Rees with T Level students at Thomas Telford University Technical College

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Learn and earn: Midland Metro Alliance’s Rose Rees with T Level students at Thomas Telford University Technical College

T Levels – broadly equivalent in size to three A levels – are a great way to learn and get hands-on job experience. 

Students come out with a useful qualification at the end of the course and a better idea of what they’d like to do. It could also be a stepping stone to employment, an apprenticeship or a degree.

During the two-year programme, T Level students spend 80 per cent of their time in the classroom and 20 per cent on a 45-day industry placement, gaining the skills and knowledge that companies are crying out for. 

Exactly how and when that placement is offered can be adapted to suit the employer, student, school or college.

Midland Metro Alliance (MMA) is made up of nine employers that came together in 2016 to design and construct tram extensions across the West Midlands on behalf of Transport for West Midlands (TfWM). 

The alliance has worked with Thomas Telford University Technical College (TTUTC) for around six years and took on its first T Level students in 2021.

The students study the design, survey and plan for construction T Level, undertake 350 hours in the workplace – 315 is the standard – alongside going to college.

Rose Rees, head of engagement and skills at MMA, says it has been a positive experience for everyone.

“There are other qualifications that give young people the start they are looking for. But for the young person who asks ‘What are you doing? Let me take it apart. Let me understand how it works’, they benefit from both hands-on and classroom learning. 

“So a T Level is a mix of both. It’s equivalent to three A levels, which is fantastic, and T Level students get nine weeks’ experience with an employer. 

“They’re not just shadowing someone, they’re participating in colleagues’ work and doing projects of their own.”

Young people join MMA in February for one or two days a week. They spend time across all departments, ranging from procurement to traffic management, and then go out on sites across the region. 

“They’ve covered a lot of modules within college on health and safety during the September term. 

“So that gives a little bit of comfort to our site managers that they have an understanding of the importance of health and safety on site.

“We’ll take them out on the trams, showing them completed tram extensions and those currently under construction.

“And we’ll talk them through the challenges we had with working in an urban environment, how we overcame them, the benefits of public transport to the public, to retailers, to everybody involved.” 

It’s a great opportunity for students to see where their interests and passions lie. Some will go on to take up apprenticeships with construction employers or move into disciplines such as health and safety, architecture or town planning. 

Recognising talent: Nicky Haigh, Transport for West Midlands MMA project sponsor, Iain Bisset, managing director of MMA alliance partner Pell Frischmann, MMA’s Rose Rees and MMA stakeholder liaison manager Tom Bissell

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Recognising talent: Nicky Haigh, Transport for West Midlands MMA project sponsor, Iain Bisset, managing director of MMA alliance partner Pell Frischmann, MMA’s Rose Rees and MMA stakeholder liaison manager Tom Bissell

“From the employer perspective, our staff and colleagues have loved having the T Level industry placement students. 

“As an ageing sector, we need to innovate young talent, and we need to reflect the diversity in our communities. 

“Traditionally, that hasn’t necessarily been the case within rail and construction infrastructure. But it’s changing.”

One criticism often levelled at the rail and construction industry is that it lacks gender diversity. T Level industry placements can help break those stereotypes, says Rose.

“Two female students are included in our cohort this year, which is great. Our project director for the Birmingham Westside Metro extension is female as well as our site agent for the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill scheme. 

“We want to encourage more females in what has traditionally been perceived as a male dominated sector.”

Shaping the industry and making it an exciting option is good for the wider community.

“We see students as our future talent bank,” says Rose, “bringing innovative ideas and great technological skills, determined to make the world a better place to live in.

“We want to leave a legacy of sustainable employment opportunities for local people.

“Our drive is to encourage young people to consider careers in the rail, civil engineering and construction sectors. We strongly believe T Levels can go a long way in supporting this.”

I’m an employer – what’s in it for me?

Offering a T Level placement gives you early access to the brightest talent and young people entering the market and the opportunity to develop your workforce of the future.

Benefits for you are that it allows you to grow your workforce in the short term while finding future talent in your area.

It’s a short-term 315-hour industry placement.

Find out more here: find-employer-schemes.education.gov.uk

What are T Levels?

Launched in September 2020, T Levels are a new type of technical qualification.

Offered in schools and colleges, they cover a wide range of subject areas, from agriculture, digital, engineering and manufacturing to on-site construction, health, education and early years.

  • Two-year courses.
  • Broadly equivalent to three A Levels.
  • 80 per cent classroom-based and 20 per cent with an employer.
  • Employer industry placements last 315 hours (equivalent to 45 days).

Are you an employer who would like to know more about hosting T Level students on industry placements? Visit find-employer-schemes.education.gov.uk/schemes/t-levels-industry-placements

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