Construction training gets Budget shake up with new T-Level qualifications

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During the Budget the Chancellor revealed new technical based qualifications would be launched to streamline construction training

A new qualification to rival the A-Level has been launched during today’s Budget. It is hoped it will streamline the construction training field by replacing the raft of technical qualifications currently available.

The announcement was made by Chancellor Philip Hammond, who said the new system will see a £500m a year investment across 15 difference sectors, including construction. The new qualifications will be aimed at 16-19 year-olds.

Technical-based qualifications

The T-Levels will offer students hands-on experience, with work placements available. Additionally, student grant style loans will be available to help them progress into higher-level technical education.

In his speech, Hammond said: “We languish near the bottom of international league tables for technical education and there is still a lingering doubt about the parity of technical qualifications – today we end that with T levels.”

The new construction training was welcomed by the Federation of Master Builders, who warned T-Levels must be on a par with A-Levels if the government is to ensure technical education is given ‘parity of esteem’.

Chief Executive Brian Berry said: “The Chancellor clearly understands that the UK won’t address the productivity challenge unless we rethink our approach to technical and vocational education.

“T-Levels could be the answer if they genuinely rival A-Levels in the eyes of parents, teachers and young people.

“UK society as a whole has been guilty of putting too much emphasis on the academic route – this has made it more difficult for vital sectors like construction and house building to attract the talented people we need.

“In construction, we are suffering from a severe skills shortage and this is likely to worsen once we leave the EU and no longer have easy access to European labour.

“This £500 million funding announced today for T-Levels is therefore a welcome and much-needed boost.”

Investment

However, there were warnings from the industry that launching T-Levels would require significant capital investment on top of the £500m funding promised.

Marcus Fagent, Head of Education at Arcadis, said: “Having had access to very limited capital funding over the last four years, FE Colleges have been through a phase of rationalising their estates, amalgamating and reducing any unused space to maximise their operational efficiency. They now have limited spare space in which to expand.

“Schools have received no funding for space other than that needed to deliver the academic curriculum in recent years, as capital spending has been driven down by efficient space models and standardised design and specification.

“The Government FE College Investment Strategy estimates that £1m of capital investment could create facilities for 75 new learners.

“On this basis, it would cost an additional £4bn to increase the number of Post 16 students on technical courses by 50 per cent.

“Creative minds will find solutions that reduce these costs but we estimate that the Government may need to inject £500m of capital investment every year to match the planned revenue investment to make T-Levels deliverable.”

Increase in National Insurance Contributions

The Budget also revealed something of a blow for the construction sector with an increase in National Insurance Contributions for self-employed workers planned. Construction, which has a significant proportion of self-employed workers, is likely to feel this change heavily.

Berry said while the Budget had been strong, it was worrying that the government had taken this route. He added: “…increasing tax on the self-employed is not helpful. If we want to establish a resilient, Brexit-proof economy, we must encourage and support our current and future entrepreneurs in the construction industry and beyond.

“A jump in National Insurance Contributions from 1 per cent to 10 per cent next year could send the wrong message to those individuals who are considering going it alone. The self-employed are the backbone of our economy and the Government should tread carefully here.”

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