BCS President praises new T Levels as the government places digital skills at the heart of its post-COVID economic recovery plan.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the pressing need to ensure that all young people have access to relevant and rigorous training - training to give them the digital skills needed to thrive in an increasingly digital world.

It’s against this backdrop that a new set of qualifications - called T Levels - has been announced. 

Speaking about T Levels,  President of BCS, Rebecca George FBCS said: ‘The recent launch of T Levels is a welcome addition to the A Levels and apprenticeships already available for young people and there’s the added benefit that businesses across the industry were involved in the design and content of the new qualification.’

Gillian Keegan MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, said: ‘We are committed to ensuring everyone - no matter what their background - is able to gain the tools they need to navigate the digital world.’

What are T Levels?

Launched in September 2020, T Levels are new courses that follow on from GCSEs and are equivalent to three A Levels. The courses take two years to complete.

Speaking about the new qualifications, Gillian Keegan MP, said: ‘What sets T Levels apart is that they have been developed in collaboration with more than 250 leading businesses, so they have been specifically designed to meet the needs of employers and address skill shortages.’

How are they different from A Levels?

Whereas A Levels are purely class-based qualifications, T Levels place a greater emphasis on practical, hands-on experience. As such, the new qualifications offer students a mixture of classroom learning and ‘on-the-job’ training via industry placement. In total, students can expect at least 315 hours - or approximately 45 days - away from the classroom and in industry.

What’s the benefit for employers?

Addressing the advantages T Levels offer employers, Gillian Keegan MP said: ‘…This is a great opportunity to tap into a local talent pool early on in their career journey. Businesses are already seeing the value these students can bring and are building T Levels and industry placements into their recruitment pipelines, both for higher-level apprenticeships and other roles.’

Which firms were involved in T Level’s creation?

T Levels were created with input from Fujitsu, Accenture, CGI, Lloyds Banking Group, IBM UK, Cap Gemini, Comptia, FutureCoders and the Army. Digital T Levels have been designed to make sure students have the experience and skills required to progress straight into a digital career.

Digital competencies will also be embedded throughout all T Level qualifications, for example, the design, surveying and planning T Level requires students to understand the use of digital technologies on a construction project, such as CAD drawing, geo surveying and building information modelling. 

Where does BCS fit into the story?

Richard Lester, Programme Director at BCS was a member of the T Level digital route panel recruited by DfE to design and develop outline content. He said: ‘BCS is working with the Gatsby Charitable Foundation to help support the teaching of T Levels, with industrial insight and highlighting the importance of professional behaviours and professional registration through RITTech.’ 

BCS has long campaigned for a more diverse workforce, and for training to have a solid ethical base.

Speaking about the T Levels’ launch, Rebecca George stated: ‘This further choice for young people to access training should lead to a more diverse tech workforce. This is necessary so that digital transformation initiatives and the development of new technologies, such as AI, are led by experts from a wide range of backgrounds.’

What does the future hold for T Levels?

T Levels are being introduced in phases and are currently only available to 16-19 year olds. The Department for Education is exploring how T Levels can be extended to adults to enable as many people as possible to benefit from these high-quality programmes.

This includes consulting on the types of flexibilities that could be introduced to make T Levels more appropriate for 19+ learners as part of the post-16 qualifications review.

Alongside this, the Government is driving forward wider initiatives for adults to put the country onto a solid post-pandemic recovery programme. A critical part of this is the National Skills Fund - a £2.5bn package that will see the government pay for courses as it strives to ‘get people working again’.

Gillian Keegan MP said: ‘In these unprecedented times, we hope that all of this action will help us protect and create jobs and continue to develop the skills that employers and our economy need to grow. This is particularly vital in our digital sector which will play such a key role in our collective future prosperity.’

T Levels need you

Can you help BCS to provide industry insight and share your experiences as an employer to support students embarking on their digital career?

Could your organisation provide a case study, feature on a video, design a work-related project for T Level students, or even set a competition?

If you would like to get involved, please email richard.lester@bcs.uk or helen.west@bcs.uk