Game changing education from Middlesbrough College

Innovative education in the form of T Levels offered by Middlesbrough College is creating job offers for young people within a range of Tees companies, says principal and chief executive Zoe Lewis.

Middlesbrough College is the only further education provider in the Tees Valley to deliver T-levels, which offer a mix of on-the-job training and classroom learning.

They include extended work placements, with students only achieving their T-Level if they have completed at least 45 days’ work experience.

Speaking in the latest Talking Business online chat, Zoe said that in the two years since the implementation of this innovative form of study, many students had been offered jobs as a direct result of their work placement managers getting to know and trust them.

“Many governments in this county have tried to make a parity of esteem between vocation and academic, but just not managed it,” Zoe told Tees Business executive editor Dave Allan.

“This current attempt is the best chance I’ve seen of all the various policies.

“Both A and T Levels are valued by employers, but the big benefit of T Levels – and the part that I think is a game changer – is that they have a mandatory extended work placement.

“For example, if you chose a digital option, you will come to college three days a week and study for your Level 3 Software Programming technical qualification and on the other two days you will go into the workplace.”

Zoe believes T Levels are a great alternative to traditional apprenticeships.

“We’ve been piloting this for a couple of years and what we are seeing is that at the end of the T Level students are being offered jobs – but they are bargaining.

“I’ve heard some wonderful examples of students saying ‘My employer wants to keep me on but I want to go to university’, so they are asking for, and getting, a four-days-a-week job and coming back to study for a degree one day and one evening a week.”

While this sounds fantastic for students, it’s also good for local employers, insisted Zoe.

“There are benefits all-round,” she explained. “Employers take on people at a younger age so salary expectations are a little bit lower than for a graduate.

“But they also have the opportunity to mould and develop the young person’s experiences whilst they are getting their degree.”

Zoe also expressed her delighted with the college’s new £2m expansion of their existing STEM training centre which offers flexible courses to those preparing for careers in the manufacturing, digital and engineering arenas.

“The stem training centre is part of the North East Institute of Technology, which is a government-driven initiative to ensure that across the whole country there’s a network of colleges offering higher education degree courses,” said Zoe.

“The feeling is that there are too many academic degrees and not enough technical degrees and they want a better balance. If you think of what I’ve said about T-levels, this is a perfect stepping stone once they have become established.

“What Middlesbrough College don’t want to be is a university. We don’t want to offer three-year degrees – we want to offer technical and applied degrees which link to industry, ideally with work placements which are more flexible and more affordable.

“We’re in the ideal place to meld that link between education and employment and it’s an exciting way of bringing the next generation through.”

• Zoe was taking part in Talking Business, an online Q&A sponsored by HR Alchemy, who provide HR guidance and solve complex HR issues for a wide range of North-East and North Yorkshire businesses.