What are T Levels and Who are They For?

T levels are new qualifications for 16-19 year olds that are an alternative to A levels. They are designed by employers to train students for highly skilled jobs, and help them to meet the skill requirements for the future.

A T level is a level 3 qualification, so equivalent to three A levels, and students who complete them can progress onto higher level schemes, including a degree!

  • T levels will replace the 13,000 technical qualifications that are currently available with 15 new pathways
  • The new system will increase the number of hours each student trains by 50% (to an average of 900 hours per year)
  • Each student will undertake a three month work placement as part of their course
  • Students who complete level 4-6 schemes will be eligible for maintenance loans similar to university students. 
  • T levels will be introduced in September 2020, and phased in through to 2022. 

Why are they being introduced?

The government have introduced these new qualifications to create simpler pathways for students to start careers in key industries.

T levels are designed to put technical education on a level footing with academic pursuits. The UK is lagging behind other countries in technical education, so this system is being brought in to help build a skilled workforce for the future.

The ‘T’ is short for technical - each qualification will focus on the technical skills that are required for particular occupations, rather than the academic skills delivered by A levels.

Improving technical education will give young people more options when they decide which path to take after they finish their GCSEs.

Which T levels will be available?

The government have confirmed pathways in the following fifteen sectors...

  • Agriculture, Environmental and Animal Care
  • Business and Administrative
  • Catering and Hospitality
  • Childcare and Education
  • Construction
  • Creative and Design
  • Digital
  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Hair and Beauty
  • Health and Science
  • Legal, Finance and Accounting
  • Protective Services
  • Sales, Marketing and Procurement
  • Social Care 
  • Transport and Logistics

These are the T level sectors that have been confirmed so far, but expect more pathways to be developed in the coming years. Who knows, there could be a T level in baking on its way.

The fifteen sectors that are listed above are broad, and can be broken up into more specific occupational areas. Agriculture, Environmental and Animal Care is not the name of one course, but the general field in which a number of qualifications will be available.

For example, the agricultural part of this pathway could involve farming and land conservation, the environmental qualifications could involve sustainability, and the animal care qualifications might involve working for the RSPCA or cat whispering. All three areas lead to very different jobs, but all fall under the same T level.

Prime Minister Theresa May is most excited about the introduction of T levels:

“Everyone should be able to have access to an education that suits them, but we know that for those that don’t choose to go to university, the routes into further technical and vocational training can be hard to navigate.

“That’s why we’re making the most significant reform to advanced technical education in 70 years to ensure young people have gold standard qualifications open to them whichever route they choose.

“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.” (May, 2018)

(Sounds wondrous.)

How are T Levels different to apprenticeships?

Eleven of the fifteen pathway that are listed above are available as either a two-year college course or an apprenticeship.

The four courses that are, as of yet, only available as apprenticeships are in Protective Services, Sales, Marketing and Procurement, Social Care and Transport and Logistics.

T levels and apprenticeships are similar, they will be based upon the same standards which are designed by employers. However, an apprentice spends most of their time in the workplace, learning on-the-job, whereas a T level student will spend most of their time in the classroom.

If a student performs particularly well in their technical studies, they can progress onto higher or degree level apprenticeships. In truth, T levels and apprenticeships are hand in glove, and have both been designed to give school and college leavers alternatives to the traditional paths to starting a career.

Can I apply?

So far, 54 colleges and training providers have been selected to deliver T levels. You can view them all here:

As September 2020 and the introduction of these new qualifications draws near, more and more colleges will include them as part of their curriculum.

It’s important to remember, these qualifications are still in development, and will not begin until the beginning of the next academic year. You can’t apply yet, but if you’re interested in studying towards T levels after your GCSEs, you can do the following…

  • Find if any there any colleges near you that will offer T levels
  • Choose a T level that you want to apply for
  • Find out the entry requirements for your desired course
  • check
    Research the employers involved in designing the qualification