Two years ago the government launched a new qualification for post-GCSE students in conjunction with firms in an attempt to ease the skills shortage and provide young people with direct and relevant workplace experience. The first students received their results last month. We find out how they got on


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“It has been amazing,” one T-level student on a work placement with Morgan Sindall says. “I’ve been enjoying it more than college,” says another.

This is the first cohort of students to complete their courses and take the new exams, and they have now got some impressive results. Of the 207 candidates who took the design, surveying and planning for construction T-level, 93.7% of them passed.

Seven (3.4%) got the highest mark, a distinction star, while 67 (32.4%) got distinctions, 100 (48.3%) a merit and 20 (9.7%) were awarded a pass. Five males and two females were awarded the distinction stars, while 54 males and 13 females achieved distinctions, 96 males and four females got merits and 19 males and one female passed.

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>>Also read: We should celebrate apprentices like every other graduate

T-levels are two-year courses launched in September 2020 which are taken after GCSEs and broadly equivalent in size to 3 A-levels. The courses have been developed in collaboration with employers so the content meets the needs of industry and prepares students for entry into skilled employment, an apprenticeship or related technical study through further or higher education. A key aspect is that students must complete at least 315 hours (about 45 days) in the workplace, and the assessment includes an employer-set project.

The design, surveying and planning for construction course was co-designed by employers including EDF Energy, Morgan Sindall, Willmott Dixon and Miller Homes and allows students to go on to a range of jobs including civil engineering technician, building technician, and building control officer. The construction courses were expanded last year and again for new students starting this month.

Helen Clements NOT A STUDENT BUT QUOTED July 2022

Helen Clements, social value manager, Morgan Sindall

Helen Clements, social value manager at Morgan Sindall Construction, believes the secret of the success with the T-levels has been that students have put into practice what they have learnt in the classroom. She says that with, for example, the construction and built environment BTEC, the students did not get that insight into the workplace and did not discover whether construction was the right career choice for them.

“It’s a win-win all round,” she says of the new qualifications. “They are not shadowing; they are working on live projects. We get to see if they will fit into our company culture and whether we suit them.

It’s a win-win all round. They are not shadowing; They are working on live projects. We get to see if they will fit into our company culture and whether we suit them

Helen Clements, Morgan Sindall 

The key to T-levels is that the employee is “embedded early on”, Clements says, although she points out that students must also be ready for hard work in the classroom. “You have to be academic to do it,” she adds.

Danielle Haskings, senior social value manager at Willmott Dixon, agrees. “It’s a difficult course,” she says, but adds: “It will weed out the people who think it’s going to be easy.

She says some people might have considered a construction qualification because they thought it would be less taxing than some other courses, but describes the T-level as “very academic”.

T-levels – the headline numbers

207 students took the design, surveying and planning for construction T-level

93.7% achieved a ‘pass’ or above

7 got the highest mark, a distinction star

67 got distinctions

100 got a merit

20 were awarded a pass 

10% of the students who took the course were female

The good news is that this means the industry will end up with better-qualified surveyors and site managers. An apprenticeship, Haskings adds, where about 20% of the time is spent in the classroom, is a better option for trade jobs but T-level courses are “more relevant” to construction. It means that students applying for trainee positions with firms will have better and more direct knowledge of construction compared with those who might have done science or maths A-levels.

When they start the placements, T-level students have already done a couple of terms in the classroom, Haskings says, so they have a good understanding of the sector before they go on work experience. “People who do this course want to go into construction,” she adds.

The T-level is also a means of addressing the industry skills shortage, particularly in terms of sustainability knowledge within the sector, something that will be increasingly relevant as homes become more energy efficient. “It’s the only course that covers those [sustainability] topics at the moment,” Haskings says.

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Our Every Person Counts coverage provides a place where debates can play out, views can be aired and solutions shared. The industry has no shortage of suggestions for tackling the skills crisis, be it reforming apprenticeships, offering more flexibility, increasing diversity or providing better pathways from education to the workplace.

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Clements believes T-levels will create a better “calibre of student”. She thinks more young people will do T-levels, not least because interest from colleges is growing as they are “getting good outcomes from students and results”. She also believes the course is improving employers’ links with colleges “because they need us more”.

Clements says time in the workforce “extends the network” for students. They will be out meeting people, including perhaps those from other firms – encounters which could lead to job opportunities in the future. Haskings corroborates this. As well as potential jobs with the firm where they do the placement – Willmott Dixon has taken on two of T-level students as permanent trainees – other students might be employed by supply chain firms. “More firms are reaching out about it,” she says.

What appears certain is that the first students have enjoyed their time out of the classroom and have gained a lot from it. Building services engineering and on-site construction were added to the list of courses last year. So it looks like T-levels are here to stay and the qualifications seem likely to go from strength to strength. 

So, what do the students say?

Matt Macalino

Studied at Bridgwater and Taunton College and did a placement with Willmott Dixon

Matt Macalino - T Level - Bridgwater & Taunton

“I have been shadowing the different people that work on a construction site in order to learn what their roles are and how they affect the construction project, which is important information to know when studying construction. As well as learning new information about the different people in construction, the support from the team has been incredible.

“They keep me entertained whenever I am on site while also teaching me new things about the project.”

Annalise Page

Studied at Bridgwater and Taunton College and did a placement with Willmott Dixon

Annalise Page - T Level - Bridgwater & Taunton

“The work experience at Willmott Dixon has helped me to build confidence and helped me consolidate my knowledge of what I have learnt from college. It has been very enjoyable and the people are extremely helpful and friendly. I am hoping to go back to do some more soon!  

“For my T-level course I had to do a certain amount of work experience to achieve my qualification. I am so glad that Willmott Dixon has given me the opportunity to work with them.”

Harrison Hall

Did a placement with Morgan Sindall, working with the team on the Summerdown project in Eastbourne  



“Working with Morgan Sindall has been amazing and has helped give me good insight into the industry which a classroom never could, and I am really enjoying it. T-levels provide you with classroom/theory work and real work experience.


“I chose to do a T-level because I feel the best way to learn is not just with theory, not just practical work, but a combination of the two, which the T-level does perfectly. In addition, T-levels are more specialised as I would have to take art, maths and physics without it to try and progress to university.

“I was drawn to Morgan Sindall because it is a larger company, and I feel like I’ve learnt more here, being able to walk around the site and speak to real professionals than perhaps smaller companies on a smaller project could give me.

“The enjoyment has encouraged me to continue into a career in construction.”

Charlotte Barons

Exeter College, did a placement with Willmott Dixon and is now joining the company trainee scheme


“Willmott Dixon have been working closely with Exeter college and, luckily for me, they offered to provide me with a work experience place at the Innovation Centre in Taunton. Since going to work I have been shown around the site and have looked at all the plans, which has helped me understand how to read drawings better. That is something I would never have learnt or had the chance to see in college.

“Since working for Willmott Dixon I have been able to understand how a large site’s dynamics work and being able to watch and get involved with these is going to help me so much when moving on to the next stage with the trainee scheme.”


Matthew Short

Studied at Truro and Penwith College

Matt took the T-level in design, surveying and planning because it offered multiple career options. He is going on to Bristol University to study building surveying and hopes to work for a surveyor’s firm in the future.

Tazivashe Makusha

Studied at Derby College   


Tazivashe, from Derby, studied a T-level in design, surveying and planning for construction at Derby College. Aged 18, he has wanted to become a structural engineer since he was young. He said: “I enjoyed my T-level and the industry placement tremendously. The placement provided substance and practical application to what I was learning in college and provided me with a rough idea of the skills that employers look for in potential graduates.”

Tazivashe has secured a place at Nottingham Trent University to study civil engineering, with a placement year planned from this September. 

Matius Kaniusas

Did a placement with Morgan Sindall, working with the team on the Summerdown project in Eastbourne   



“Working for Morgan Sindall has been a very enjoyable experience, and I have been enjoying it more than college. T-levels provide you with classroom/theory education while also gaining on‑site industry experience.


“I chose to do T-levels because I knew I wanted to work in the construction industry and a T-level was more specialised than A-levels, but also a higher level than the BTEC. I also liked the idea of getting industry experience. I was drawn to Morgan Sindall because it is a very large contractor and I believed I would gain more experience here than with a small local contractor. Every week I get to go out on site to see how much it has changed and what is going on.

“I have also completed quantity surveying, design and site management-related tasks. I have really been enjoying it and want to continue with a career in construction.”

Ed Grimshaw


Studied at Exeter College, did a placement with Willmott Dixon and is now joining the company trainee scheme

“Having done a work placement with Willmott Dixon for six months, I have really got to grips with the way they work as a company. Everyone is very friendly and was always willing to help, whether with college work I did not understand or parts of the project I was working on that I didn’t quite understand.

“Having done work placements with multiple people within the business in different job roles, I can now see how they all interlink and how they all work together. But also it has given me a broader view of the industry and how much work goes into a project. This also gave me really good hands-on experience of each job role and what their day-to-day jobs are to give me a proper insight into each role.

“I found this placement very helpful as it allowed me to see more of the industry and, thanks to the placement, I was able to apply and be accepted on to their management trainee scheme starting in September.”