By Mahreen Ferdous - Ufi Project Account Manager
Ufi funds and invests in innovation to support the development of learning technology for vocational skills for work. Supporting better vocational education is at the heart of Ufi’s mission. In 2020, the pandemic has brought technology to support learning into the spotlight in a way that was inconceivable just two years ago.
Beyond applying technology in vocational education, there are other changes brewing. The roll-out of T levels is now happening in earnest with 3000+ students taking the new qualification in 2020. T levels are a parallel route to A-levels for young people at 16+ and a major shift in the UK vocational qualifications space. Co-designed with employers (such as Fujistu, IBM, Siemens, GSK, Royal Society of Chemistry), colleges (such as Grimsby Institute, City College Norwich) and qualification providers (Pearson and City & Guilds), T Levels are intended to provide students with practical hands-on experience as well as specific technical knowledge. At the Westminster Forum the design and potential of T Levels created genuine excitement as well as some concerns. So, what does success of T levels depend on? And where can tech help?
T levels provide a distinctive advantage by giving young people practical experience in the workplace.
Geographical disparity of provision is a key concern and Nick Linford from FE Week highlighted the importance of avoiding a ‘post code lottery’. If the workplace placement element can only be fulfilled through local employers, this could potentially exacerbate existing fault-lines. In a recent blog Ufi Deputy CEO Louise Rowland highlighted the education inequalities exposed by the pandemic. Technology can help level up access by providing matching services for learners and employers beyond the local area. For example, Ufi has supported Multiverse, a digital tool providing access to apprenticeships which has gone onto receive extensive investment. Such tools will be important for the success of T levels.
The perceived value and parity with A levels is a concern among students and parents, both of whom need to be on-board for the success of the roll out. Clarifying learners’ options after completing T levels will be crucial to their wider adoption. These future options are currently unclear. Routes into university as well as apprenticeships seem possible, but need to be outlined in a simple and easily digestible way. Used well, technology can support this dissemination.
There is a positive energy behind this shift to T levels in vocational education. The timing is ripe as the pandemic has acted as step change in the acceptance of digital technology in learning. T levels with apprenticeships can create analternative route to learning and demonstrating skills, one that is rooted in the workplace. Technology can help learners demonstrate and record the new skills they are acquiring via this new qualification. Ufi are keeping a close eye on this space and have been investing in workplace learning that will contribute to the success of UK vocational education.