In June 2016, the Government published its post-16 skills strategy. It was the first skills strategy for a decade and aimed to ensure technical training was robust, met employer needs and was a viable alternative to A levels.
Part of its plan was to create new full-time technical qualifications called T levels, which aim to simplify vocational training in England and make it easier for young people to find jobs at a time of continued skills shortages for hospitality businesses.
The T level for catering and hospitality is due to be released in 2022 which, while five years away, provides colleges and employers with "much-needed" time to prepare and learn from the first tranche of T levels, which will be rolled out from 2020.
Cog in the wheel
With an additional 1.3m staff needed by 2024 and 64% of hospitality businesses with a vacancy suggesting that they are hard to fill because there are insufficient candidates with the necessary skills, People 1st hopes that the T levels will be an "important cog in the wheel" that can help find a solution to the skills shortage facing hospitality employers, it said.
Commenting on its draft response to the Government consultation on T levels, Martin-Christian Kent, executive director at People 1st said: “We welcome the introduction of the T level, as it provides a rigorous and viable alternative to A-levels and apprenticeships.
"That said, we believe that its content and assessment should, as far as possible, mirror and build on the reformed apprenticeships.
“It is important that this qualification equips students with the skills and knowledge required to pursue a career in their chosen career and is not stretched in other directions to create identikit T levels across different sectors.
“There also needs to be clear and relevant kitchen and front-of-house provision at level 2 that is adequately funded and that equips students with the skills and knowledge to start their T level.”
As recent research from People 1st has shown, colleges play a critical role in developing future talent for the hospitality sector – some 28,000 chef students completed their course last year, not to mention the thousands of food and beverage students, it said.
Sean Wheeler, director of people development for Principal Hotel Company and chair of the People 1st accreditation panel, which recognises excellence in the delivery of full-time college provision, said: “As chair of the People 1st accreditation panel, we have worked closely with colleges to recognise high-quality and responsive provision.
“However, it is critical that these qualifications reflect the needs of employers and equip students with the skills and knowledge to pursue careers in hospitality. This consultation provides us with an opportunity to help shape their development and I hope the Government will continue to work with employers at every stage.”
British Beer and Pub Association Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds agrees with People 1st, and has also suggested how occupational maps, which aim to simplify the current apprenticeship system by categorising occupations with similar knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) into 15 maps, will also play an important role in developing future apprenticeships systems.
“It is vitally important for pubs that we encourage UK nationals to work in our sector and the introduction of T Levels and occupational maps offer the opportunity to highlight a serious career structure in brewing and pubs. We very much welcome the work experience which is a key element of the new T level qualifications.
"As a people facing business, work experience offers a greater understanding of how the industry works and the opportunities for career progression.”