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People 1st responds to the government’s T level consultation – an important opportunity for hospitality employers to help alleviate skills shortages in the sector

The new technical qualification reforms are set to be one of the biggest overhauls of post-school education in 70 years. People 1st has set out its response to the T level consultation, highlighting the critical need for employers to be involved at every stage. It is also inviting any hospitality employers who have not yet contributed their views to add to the People 1st submission.

In June 2016, the government published its post 16 skills strategy. It was the first skills strategy for a decade and aimed to ensure technical training was robust, met employer needs and was a viable alternative to A levels.

Part of its plan was to create new full-time technical qualification called T levels, which aim to simplify vocational training in England and make it easier for young people to find jobs at a time of continued skills shortages for hospitality businesses.

The T level for catering and hospitality is due to be released in 2022 which, whilst five years away, provides colleges and employers with much-needed time to prepare and learn from the first tranche of T levels, which will be rolled out from 2020.

With an additional 1.3m staff needed by 2024 and 64% of hospitality businesses with a vacancy suggesting that they are hard to fill because there are insufficient candidates with the necessary skills, People 1st hopes that the T levels will be an important cog in the wheel that can help find a solution to the skills shortage facing hospitality employers.

Commenting on its draft response to the government consultation on T levels, Martin-Christian Kent, executive director at People 1st says: “We welcome the introduction of the T level, as it provides a rigorous and viable alternative to the A- level and the apprenticeship. That said, we believe that its content and assessment should, as far as possible, mirror and build on the reformed apprenticeships.

“It is important that this qualification equips students with the skills and knowledge required to pursue a career in their chosen career and is not stretched in other directions to create identikit T levels across different sectors.

“There also needs to be clear and relevant kitchen and front-of-house provision at level 2 that is adequately funded and that equips students with the skills and knowledge to start their T level.”

Critically, People 1st believes that it is important that existing employer groups should be engaged in the development of the T levels, particularly those involved in the development of the new apprenticeships, as they will already have considered the skills, knowledge and behaviours for the relevant occupations in the sector.  

Martin-Christian continues: “The introduction of the T level means significant changes and it will be critical that communication between partners is open and transparent, that it is carefully piloted and that employers are involved at every stage.

“Promotion of the T levels needs to start now, involve employers, and highlight the resulting career opportunities. It’s also important to explain the T levels in comparison with A levels and apprenticeships.”

The new T level qualifications will be two-year programmes at level 3 that equip 16-19 year olds to enter specific occupations, including hospitality, and embed a significant work placement. They will bring many changes to the way colleges deliver their full-time programme and to the ways in which they work with employers to organise and manage work placements.

Martin-Christian adds: “The placement in the new T levels is a critical part of the delivery and expectations will need to be clearly agreed upfront and carefully managed, with reporting made simple and not burdensome for the employer or college.”

As recent research from People 1st has shown, colleges play a critical role in developing future talent for the hospitality sector – some 28,000 chef students completed their course last year, not to mention the thousands of food and beverage students.

Sean Wheeler, director of people development for Principal Hotel Company and chair of the People 1st accreditation panel, which recognises excellence in the delivery of full-time college provision, comments: “As chair of the People 1st accreditation panel, we have worked closely with colleges to recognise high-quality and responsive provision.

“However, it is critical that these qualifications reflect the needs of employers and equip students with the skills and knowledge to pursue careers in hospitality. This consultation provides us with an opportunity to help shape their development and I hope the government will continue to work with employers at every stage.”

Having consulted a range of employers and colleges in its response, People 1st is also inviting further comment on its submission. If you haven’t already contributed and would like to share your views, visit: www.people1st.co.uk/t-levels by midday on Thursday 8 February.

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