T Levels could solve skills shortages across Teesside

08 June 2022

T Levels could be the solution to the skills shortage facing the engineering and construction sectors – that’s the message from businesses across the region already reaping the rewards.

The new pioneering technical qualifications are designed in collaboration with employers and include an industry placement of at least 45 days – helping learners gain valuable experience in the workplace alongside their studies. T Level industry placements feature sector-specific learning programmes so students can hit the ground running once they start full-time roles.

As one of only a handful of institutions across the country first selected to deliver T Levels, Middlesbrough College has already been training hundreds of young people in a range of sectors, from childcare and digital, to construction and science.

And it’s not just students who are benefitting from the programme.

With the focus on hands-on experience, T Level industry placements offer up a unique opportunity for employers who want to shape the way young people are trained to meet their future needs. One Teesside business already benefitting is mechanical, electrical and construction contractor Geoffrey Robinson.

The Billingham-based employer has worked with Northern Skills, the apprenticeship and training arm of Middlesbrough College, for more than three years to bring in a pipeline of talent.

Along with many others in the sector, the business had felt the impact of the skills shortage for several years, only to be heightened by the impact of COVID-19.

Managing director Neal Robinson said: “More than 200,000 construction engineers have left the sector since the start of the pandemic, with almost half aged 45-55. That’s on top of the pressures we already felt as a business when trying to recruit.

“That’s why our partnership with Middlesbrough College Group is so important. As we continue to grow, making sure we have the right people with the right skills to help us achieve that is vital.

“We see real value in bringing in industry placement students – they’re keen to learn and it’s a great stepping stone to an apprenticeship. In fact, we’re hoping to take on at least 12 apprentices this year and are looking to develop our own training school, so we can continue to build that pipeline of talent.”

Following a successful T Level industry placement with Geoffrey Robinson, 19-year-old Harees Hussain was recently offered a full-time apprenticeship with the company, starting this September. Harees is currently studying a Building Service Engineering T Level, specialising in plumbing and heating engineering.

Neal added: “Harees is a great example of a young, enthusiastic student who has embraced their placement and made a real impression.

“Moving forward, we’re hoping to incentivise staff to mentor their own apprentice – giving the learner quality one on one time with our experienced team. We see it as a real investment into our future as much as it is theirs.”

As well as Harees, many other bright spark students are already building exciting careers in the region and beyond through industry placements and apprenticeships with other leading companies such as Esh, Persimmon Homes, Northern Power Grid and HC Controls Ltd.

Middlesbrough College Group works with more than 2,000 employers in the North East and Yorkshire to deliver various skills programmes. With strong industry links, its experienced team have trained more than 2,200 apprentices putting the group in a strong position to help shape the economic landscape of the region.

Katharine Hawking, head of work experience and T Level industry placements at Middlesbrough College, said: “T Levels offer a unique proposition for employers, addressing the pain points that many report – including lack of hands-on experience.

“The qualifications build on the idea of work experience by inviting learners to fully integrate themselves into the business – in turn, giving them more time to master essential skills and competencies.

“It’s also an opportunity for a business to play a much bigger role in the growth of our local economy and the futureproofing of skills in the region. Some of the next generation of business leaders will start their careers with T Levels.”

From September, Middlesbrough College will also be delivering T Levels in engineering, and is looking to speak with engineering and construction employers across the region who are interested in finding out more about how they can support students, as well as how T Levels could help their business take off in 2022.

For more information, contact the Middlesbrough College Group Work Experience and T Level Industry Placements team at placements@mbro.ac.uk.

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