Minister Gillian Keegan MP introduces T Levels - a family of new qualifications that have practical digital skills and employer insight at their heart.

Our reliance on the digital world has never been more apparent than in the past six months. For some it has been a sharp learning curve in how to use video chat so we can stay in touch with loved ones, while schools and colleges quickly switched most of their teaching online and businesses reacted to reach customers staying at home.

The focus on digital knowledge has been intensified by the pandemic, but it is not new, the skills gaps that exist now are the same as they were before the pandemic. We are committed to ensuring everyone, no matter what their background, is able to gain the tools they need to navigate the digital world.

This September, we have launched our new Digital Production Design and Development T Level, a new two-year qualification that offers a high-quality alternative to A levels. Two further digital T Levels will be rolled out in the future, with courses in Digital Business Services and Digital Support Services launching next year.

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. T Levels are a gamechanger in the post-16 landscape, and Digital is a priority and one of the first subject areas to be taught.

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 experience and skills required to progress straight into a digital career that they wouldn’t be able to gain anywhere else. 

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 BIM modelling.
One of the unique aspects of a T Level is it that it includes a 45-day industry placement, allowing students to gain a real insight into their chosen sector and invaluable on-the-job experience that will set them apart from their peers. For employers 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.

Of course, apprenticeships are and continue to be an excellent way to bring fresh talent into digital industries and beyond. Throughout this period of uncertainty, employers across the country have continued to see the value an apprentice can bring to their business.

As a former apprentice I know first-hand how life changing one can be and the exciting career path an apprenticeship can take you on. This is something recognised across government, which is why, as part of our Plan for Jobs, we are giving businesses £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under 25, and £1,500 for apprentices taken on over the age of 25.

As the Prime Minister set out earlier this week, these skills are vital for adults too, which is why are providing £8 million to expand digital bootcamps this year, in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Lancashire, and Liverpool City Region, to help more people get the technological and digital skills they need. These will be led by local employers and will be followed by additional bootcamps in Leeds City Region, the South West, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, early next year.  The training courses will provide valuable skills based on employer skills gaps.

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.

It is not enough just to provide people with the opportunity to learn, we need to make sure we are giving people the chance to develop the skills they will need for the future, which is why businesses and employers have invested time and energy in the development of our new T Levels. As we launch the new gold standard in technical education, we look forward to seeing the value the next generation will bring.

About the author

Gillian Keegan was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills at the Department for Education on 14 February 2020.