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Teesside businesses prove T Levels are ticket to homegrown talent

12 Oct 2022
Katharine Hawking, Moritz Cornieje and Phil Smith

T Levels are the ticket to homegrown talent here in Teesside.

That’s the message from Middlesbrough College Group during T Levels Week (October 10 – 14), as it urges local businesses to take advantage of the opportunities to keep skilled workers in the region.

Earlier this year, Government announced new reforms to overhaul the further education system, including removing funding for BTEC courses from 2024 in favour of T Levels/A Levels.

The College was one of the first institutions selected by Government to deliver the pioneering new qualifications, developed in partnership with local employers to deliver cutting edge courses that equip learners with the skills they need to enter the world of work.

As an early adopter of T Levels, Middlesbrough-based software engineering firm NorthLink Digital is already reaping the rewards of opening its workplace to the next generation – and is calling on others to do the same.

Phil Smith, chief technology officer at NorthLink Digital, said: “We’ve always been passionate about working with young people and showing them that they don’t have to go to university in Manchester or get jobs in London.

“And because that’s traditionally what would have happened, we noticed a real skills gap when trying to employ skilled developers locally.

“For us, T Levels have filled that gap. They deliver technical skills that fuel the success of local businesses like ours, as well as the digital cluster here in Middlesbrough. Ultimately, it’s our responsibility as employers to open up our workplaces, invest our time in the next generation and showcase what’s on offer here on Teesside – because there is a lot to shout about.

“Businesses need to look at it less as philanthropic and giving back to the community and see it as a real return on investment. I’d take on as many T Level students as I had the time and energy to work with, and in fact, we’re already working with the College to offer more placements.”

T Level courses, which are equivalent to three A Levels, include work placements of at least 45 days – allowing students to get essential hands-on experience in their chosen industry.

Following his successful placement with the NorthLink, 18-year-old Moritz Cornieje was offered a permanent role as a software developer alongside his studies.

He said: “I started out studying A Levels but soon realised it wasn’t for me. I then heard about T Levels and loved the sound of the work placement and getting real, hands-on experience.

“It means you can really integrate yourself into the business and quickly prove yourself to be an asset. And for some, it can lead to a permanent role, like it has for me.

“There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom. I had the opportunity to work on real client briefs and build my confidence in a professional environment – it’s been invaluable.”

Alongside his role at NorthLink, Moritz is currently in his second year of his T Level in Digital Production, Design and Development and is based in the College’s new digital centre – MC Digital. The multi-million-pound facility is home to industry leading programming suites, cyber labs, video editing suites, a games design suite, a full TV and film studio, VR headsets, 360 cameras and more.

And it’s not just the tech sector where T Levels are ramping up on Teesside.

Middlesbrough College’s apprenticeship and training arm, Northern Skills, works with more than 2,000 employers across the region to make sure courses equip learners with the skills so in demand on Teesside.

From September 2023, the College will deliver a full suite of T Levels in Business & Law, Catering, Childcare, Construction, Catering, Digital, Engineering, Hair & Beauty, Health and Science, offering up unrivalled opportunities for learners.

Katharine Hawking, head of work experience and T Level industry placements at Middlesbrough College, said: “Traditionally, young people thought they had to move away from the area to get a ‘good job’ but we’re proving that there are fantastic opportunities and careers right here on Teesside.

“T Level placements offer up a unique opportunity for employers who want to shape the way young people are trained to meet their future needs. They address the pain points that many report – including lack of hands-on experience.

“They’re also an opportunity for businesses 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.

“They’re high quality, exciting routes into employment, apprenticeships or further study that give learners the technical skills most in demand in the jobs market.”

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