White paper Skills Plan mismatch
The initial focus for T Levels has been as a programme for 16-18 year olds. Yet there is a larger group of young people who could benefit from T Levels – those aged 19-23. Approximately 3.2m 18-24 year olds in England are not in full-time education but over 75% of them (2.5m) are in employment. It’s employed 18-24 year olds not in full-time education who the government will predominantly need to target and encourage onto full and part-time T Levels.
The difficulty in engaging this age group is in supporting them in their studies. Over 1 in 10 young adults aged 18-24 in employment but not in full-time education are on zero-hour contracts, self-employed or agency workers. In addition, 9% of all 18-24 year olds – non-student jobs and student-jobs – earn near or below the minimum wage whilst over 50% earn below the living wage. Young adults funding their living costs to study full-time T Levels from earnings will always put their job and earnings ahead of studies, unless there are other ways to support themselves.
As 18-24 year olds on full-time Level 4-6 higher education programmes are entitled to maintenance loans, Mark Corney makes the point that these could be extended to include 18-24 year olds undertaking technical education. He writes ‘The aim of maintenance loans is to facilitate participation on T Levels by 19-23 year olds. Full-time maintenance loans will cover the living costs of 19-23 year olds on T Levels who want to be full-time students first and workers second. If part-time T Levels for 19-23 year olds are introduced, part-time maintenance loans will ease the financial pressure of young adults to put earning before part-time learning’.
If the participation of young adults could be supported in this way, the positive impact on the growth of technical education and the success of T Levels would be much greater. We believe they would help to increase uptake of T Levels as a valued route into employment for young people.