What are T-Levels?

While academic qualifications - A Levels, a university degree - are prized in the UK, technical skills have traditionally been considered the poor relation.

But the country desperately needs more skilled employees in engineering, catering, childcare, coding and many more areas. This matters as we are one of the worst providers of technical education internationally - and this has a knock-on effect on the economy. 

All this will be shaken up in a couple of years’ time, the government hopes, with the planned introduction of “T-levels” – new qualifications in 15 different areas – designed to teach technical skills for teenagers who want to work and progress in relevant sectors. “I want to create an army of skilled young people for British business,” said education secretary Justine Greening in July 2017 when she set out plans for investment.

Currently, technical education is confusing – there are about 13,000 different courses available. These reforms plan to simplify this, says Gemma Gathercole, head of funding and assessment at further education experts LSect. In the future, there will be one technical route into a career – engineering, say – via a T-level, rather than a choice of vocational training. Some new T-levels will probably contain core content, in maths or English, but students will take just one specific course rather than several qualifications.

When the new technical qualifications are introduced – some in 2019 and more by 2022, 16 year olds and above will be able to choose from 15 areas (below) where there’s most need for these skills.

To boost these new qualifications, the government plans to invest an extra £500 million a year and increase the number of supervised hours for students. And the government is also investing to create worthwhile three month work placements which will form a key part of the new qualification.


Some areas such as creative and design will offer many different courses, as this is such a broad field and could include anything from media through to product design – so there will be more than 15 courses on offer. Digital, for instance, could cover areas from IT support through to software design.

Groups of employers are currently beginning to develop the actual content of the qualifications, which will then be offered by exam boards as a route to a technical career. T-levels will mostly be developed as two year courses, and some, such as social care will be offered only as apprenticeships. “But while apprenticeships tend to be quite job focused, T-levels should offer a broader career choice,” says Ms Gathercole.

T-levels will mostly be offered by further education colleges which have the technical expertise, though some more generalist subjects might be available at sixth form colleges. “These are being developed from scratch,” says Ms Gathercole. “They’re meant to be significantly different from what we’ve had before.” 

New T-Levels will be offered eventually in the following 15 sectors: 

  • Agriculture, Environmental and Animal Care
  • Business and Administration
  • Catering and Hospitality
  • Childcare and Education 
  • Construction 
  • Creative and Design
  • Digital
  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Hair and Beauty
  • Health and Science
  • Legal, Finance and Accounting 
  • Protective Services
  • Sales, Marketing, and Procurement
  • Social Care
  • Transport and Logistics 


Careers, CollegeHelena Pozniak