Comment: How T Levels can help plug the skills gap in the construction and engineering sector

T Levels can help plug the skills gap in the construction and engineering sector, says Ryan Doyle, director of operations at Building Design Northern (BDN).


Whether you work in industry, practice or the public sector, those of us in the engineering profession know there is a skills shortage facing the trade. A report from the Construction Products Association found that over 200,000 construction engineers have left the industry since the start of the pandemic. At the same time, research suggests less than half of new engineering recruits have neither the necessary technical or soft skills needed for work within the industry.

This skills gap highlights why it is more important than ever that we bridge the gap between education and industry. When employers across the country were asked if they could provide placements for the new T Level qualification, which launched in 2020, the team here at Building Design Northern (BDN) decided this was a great way to facilitate this link.

T Levels offer the perfect blend of classroom learning and on-the-job training linking the needs of the industry with an education course. T Levels are a new qualification, offered as an alternative to A levels, for 16–19-year-olds, with a focus on developing industry specific employable skills that can help students get into skilled employment, university or higher apprenticeships.  Every T Level includes an in-depth industry placement that lasts at least 45 days and employers across the industry are being encouraged to offer students placements to complete their courses.


At BDN, we have seen the positive impact of T Levels already; they provide students with hands-on in-house experience, as well as teaching them the fundamental academic elements needed for the workplace. T Level students learn the required elements from an academic perspective, whilst also reinforcing their understanding of work in the industry before they've even fully entered it. This not only improves their knowledge of design and engineering, but also prepares them for their future careers.

We have seen the benefit of offering T Level placements to the business first hand. Recently we welcomed Design, Surveying and Planning T Level student, Declan Urwin, from Sunderland College. Declan has a clear ambition to enter the construction industry, and has engaged in his placement opportunity, gaining valuable practical experience early on in his career. Declan provided a fresh, alternative perspective to our business, from his assistance with our multi-disciplinary projects and day-to-day activities, through to providing opinions and suggestions in the development of projects.

Over the next few years, T Levels will scale to include more than 20 courses, covering 11 skill areas including engineering, construction, accounting, finance, agriculture, media, legal services and many more. From our own experience, T Levels are a way to grow our own talent and find the next generation of engineering and construction industry leaders. Students like Declan have been fantastic and are committed, enthusiastic and possess a genuine interest in the industry.

As T Levels continue to expand to other industries and increase in popularity, we would encourage more businesses to offer T Level industry placements to students as it is a mutually beneficial opportunity for both employers and learners.

Ryan Doyle is director of operations at Building Design Northern (BDN).

If you are a business and interested in offering T Level industry placements, visit: