Leicester College Blog

T levels – sparking the best of both worlds


Kian knew he wanted to get into electrics, but wanted to study the theory behind it before taking on the practical work. The T level offered him the chance to learn the science of electrical installation as well as put it into practice. Kian Chapman completed his BSE T Level Electrical Installation in June 2023. 

T levels are relatively new, two-year vocational qualifications which are equivalent to three A levels. They help to prepare students to enter work with good technical skills and knowledge, or go on to higher education. Kian found out about them after completing his GCSEs. 

“I didn’t know much about them but in school I didn’t really do practical stuff, I was more book-smart, but I still wanted to get into the electrical industry, so I was looking for ways to that. I’d heard about level 2 and 3 BTECs but they weren’t available. Then I heard about T levels so I researched what a T level was and found they’re 80% coursework and 20% practical so I’m still getting the practical knowledge but more theory than with other courses.” 

Knowledge and skills wanted by employers 

T levels are based on the same standards as apprenticeships, designed by employers with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to make sure young people under 19 develop the knowledge and skills required by employers after their GCSEs. T levels were perfect for Kian as he wanted to keep studying and learning but also gain some practical experience.  

“I didn’t fancy being on site all the time straight away. I’d rather know all the stuff behind it before I actually get into the practical side and just doing it before I actually know why I’m doing it. I’d rather do the theory about it first. 

“The course is quite similar in some aspects to GCSEs where it’s a lot of writing and you do some actual hands on work but it’s more like you’re writing, you’re reading books, watching presentations. You’ve still got topics like you have in GCSEs and in the first year it’s all about the wider subject and about everything, whereas the second year it’s more electrical based and actually doing electrics. You’ve still got all the routes that it’s split into.” 

Lots of options 

Kian enjoyed science at secondary school and wanted to develop that knowledge to get a job in the electrical industry. 

“I liked science at secondary school, and I wanted to get into electrics because the industry’s massive at the moment; everyone wants to do electrics. Everything’s turning electrical – cars, homes, and there’s different ways of getting electricity.  

“If you do this course, you can branch off into any area of electrics. You can go to university and carry it on or go straight into work like installing solar panels. There’s lots of options.”  

A good middle ground 

Kian feels that he found the right balance of theory learning and practical experience on this course and says it’s a good option for those who enjoy studying but also want to get some hands-on experience. 

“I’d 100% recommend this course at Leicester College because if you’re like me, and didn’t want to go straight into practical work, like getting hands-on but not too much, and you’re also book-smart it’s a good middle ground where you can do all your reading and learning about sciences but then you can also pick up a screwdriver or drill and do some practical work as well.” 

45-day work placement 

T level students spend around 80% of their time in the classroom and 20% on a work placement. Whilst with an apprenticeship, it’s 20% in college and 80% in the workplace. Leicester College helps students to find their work placements, which are for at least 45 days. Kian secured a work placement with a company that installs industrial roller shutters. 

“The College helps a lot with your work placement. I struggled to find one in my first year – I was trying but, because T levels were new, a lot of companies didn’t know what they were or that we had to do 45 days work placement. The companies get paid for it but they had no clue what T levels were so I had to write letters to them explaining the course and the work placement requirement. Some asked it if was an apprenticeship and I had to explain that no, it’s not. I did find a place and worked with Blaby Electricals for a bit and with an electric roller doors company which is where I’m going to work when I finish the course. 

“When it becomes more common for people to do T levels, companies will know more about them and it will be easier for people to get work placements.” 

Workplace options 

T levels offer a good balance of time spent studying and time spent in the workplace. Students are given the opportunity to undertake the placement days as a block or as individual days. Kian spent two days per week at his work placement. 

“I was at College Monday to Wednesday and on Thursday and Friday we did directed study, like health and safety, at home. During the work placement, we worked at the company on Thursdays and Fridays. I liked the balance. It wasn’t too much. I think if you’re working all the time like on an apprenticeship, and then you’re also coming into college on day release or block release that might be too much. But with T levels you’ve got a split where you can do work but also get the theory in your head so that when you go back to work you know why you’re doing it and sometimes even show your bosses up a little bit! 

“Some people are still working for their work placement company and getting paid. Once you’ve finished your placement, you can stay with the company if they want to keep you on.” 

Some courses even offer work placements abroad – Kian went to Spain twice during the two-year course.  

Confidence building 

Like most courses at Leicester College, T levels help students to develop personal skills as well as practical skills and/or subject knowledge.  

“You make a lot of new friends here. I only knew two people from my high school who did this course but you meet so many new people from all over. Because we’re right in the middle of town everyone comes from everywhere. You make friends and your teamwork gets better. When you’re in practical, you’re all starting off from the same point, no-one knows what they’re doing at first so you all help each other. So then you learn loads of different practical skills. If you’d have asked me to do something back then I’d have had no clue but now I’m more confident. 

“I feel really good about the course. The first year was a bit tricky because you learn about the whole course subject area, not just electrics but also things like sustainability and all the other topics. There were points where I thought ‘If I’m not doing electrics, why am I here?’ But then, as it goes on, you realise that everything’s linked like sustainability is linked to working on solar panels. It got easier as it went on and it’s definitely a good course to choose.” 

Latest industry regulations  

Following T Levels, students can choose to continue their education at university to go into employment. Students are prepared for the workplace as they learn the latest industry regulations and guidelines. Kian has chosen to work after being offered a job with an industrial roller shutter company. 

 “The T levels use the latest books. We learn from the 18th edition which has the newest regulations and guides for on-site. We work with them a lot and if you go to a company and can say that you’ve been working to all the latest regulations they will know that you know what you’re doing, even if you’ve not got as much practical experience.  

 “I was going to do an apprenticeship after this as instead of doing a four-year apprenticeship you can do a two-year one, because you’ve already done two years of T level. But most people are going into a full-time job which is what I’m doing – I’m going to be doing the electrics on industrial doors. The company got in touch with me, I did an interview and was offered the job two days later.”  

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