Vocational construction T-level courses announced by Government for 2020

Overconfidence is hampering businesses, says research

Vocational T-levels are to be taught in UK colleges by 2020, including courses on construction, although a leading construction body has raised questions over their viability.

The qualifications, which have the same status as A-levels, are intended to provide young people with a choice between technical and academic education post 16. Courses in construction, digital,

education and childcare will be first taught from September 2020. A further 22 courses will be rolled out in stages from 2021, which will cover sectors such as finance, accounting, engineering, manufacturing, creative and design. Prime Minister Theresa May explained:

“T-levels provide a high-quality, technical alternative to A levels ensuring thousands of people across the country have the skills we need to compete globally – a vital part of our modern industrial strategy.” According to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) however, “The Government must be realistic about the capabilities of students who have completed construction T-levels.” The FMB has questioned how ‘work-ready’ such students would be.

Commenting on the announcement, Brian Berry, chief executive at the FMB, believes the idea that a student who has completed a bricklaying T-level is able to call themselves a qualified bricklayer is “not credible.” He continued: “The Government must be realistic about how much can be achieved in two years of largely


college-based learning. Although T-levels include a three-month work placement, when the rest of the individual’s knowledge and skills are acquired in the classroom, in construction they will need more time onsite, post-T-level, before they can and should describe themselves as being qualified in that trade. Small and medium-sized construction firms, which do the bulk of training in our industry, would rather view T-levels as a rich pool of talent through which to find apprentices. “More positively, the Government has listened to the concerns of the construction industry and stated its intention to make work placements as flexible as possible. In construction, work placements are not popular or common so persuading sufficient numbers of employers to offer these opportunities will be challenging. The Government being open to the three-month placement being achieved through more than one employer is therefore vital. Berry concluded: “If implemented properly, T-levels have the potential to provide parity of esteem between vocational and academic education. Although there are challenges regarding the implementation of T-levels, we are committed to working with the Government constructively to overcome those challenges. If the UK is to increase its productivity, we need more young people, and their parents and teachers, to recognise the value of a career in construction. With Brexit just around the corner, this has never been so important.”

The vast majority of construction bosses rate their skills highly relative to their peers, while investing little time in improving their businesses, according to new research from Be the Business. The survey of over 1,000 SME business owners and managers found that 83 per cent of construction bosses surveyed believed their business is as productive or more productive than their peers, compared with the UK average of 79 per cent. 28 per cent of all SME businesses surveyed were revealed to have never evaluated their business practices to identify areas of improvement. Construction bosses cited lack of time as the biggest reason for not adopting best practices in the business (26 per cent agreed), while 12 per cent struggle to identify ‘what best practice looks like’ for their firm, and a further 10 per cent don’t know the right questions to ask about their business’ current methods. Tony Danker, chief executive of Be the Business, said: “Evidence shows that business leaders consistently overestimate the performance of their businesses, and Brexit will only increase the demand for our firms to be more competitive. “Construction bosses must raise the performance of their businesses to put themselves in the best place to manage the challenges and opportunities life outside the EU will bring.

“If bosses commit to improving their

firms’ performance, British business will thrive whatever our post-Brexit landscape looks like.”

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