Spotlight on: Alfie Earlham, T-Level student

Welcome to a new edition of our AllAboutSchoolLeavers’ blog! This week, we’re speaking to Alfie Earlham, one of the first students to trial the new post-16 education courses known as T Levels, available from September 2020. Keep reading to find out more about what T Levels are, their benefits and Alfie’s own experience.

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What are T-Levels and how did you find out about them?

T Levels are two-year post-GCSE courses that are equivalent to 3 A-Levels. At the moment, they’re still being trialled, but they will be available in colleges around the UK starting in September 2020.

T Levels combine classroom learning with an industry placement to prepare students for work. I spend time both at my college and at my job; at the moment, I’m going to college three days a week, and I’m at my T-Level placement two days a week.

Currently, I’m one of the few students that are trialling this new scheme. Our college was approached to help sample the new scheme before it was rolled out officially in 2020, and once I heard about it, I was excited to try it out. I was curious to see what it was like and to get to spend time at a real workplace alongside my studies.

What does your schedule look like? What courses are you taking?

At the minute, I’m studying Level 3 business at college, and my placement is at a digital marketing agency. You can see that what I’m studying and my placement are quite closely related, and I really like the placement, because it helps me put the things I learn in the classroom into practice.

I’m at the college Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then I’m at my placement Thursday and Friday. I’ve been doing my T Levels for about two months now, and it’s a two-year programme.

What is your placement like? Do you enjoy it?

Work at the digital marketing agency is quite varied and very interesting. At the minute, my job consists of writing quite a bit for several websites. I’m also reaching out to new websites in order to get writing placements to write on behalf of our clients and advertise for them.

I think I’m definitely being treated like any other employee at the company, which I really like. I’m given interesting tasks, and offered advice and help with anything I need. With work experience, you’re doing a one-week placement, and then that’s it. But with a longer placement like mine, you can really tell that the company wants you to do well and learn as much as possible.

I don’t like the thought of doing something I don’t like later on, but I’m really interested in the role, and I’d definitely consider going into this field once I’m done.

I’m still undecided on whether to go to university or straight into work, which is why doing T Levels is quite good—I’m able to keep my options open. The programme sets me up for either work or university, so I don’t have to decide just yet.

What do you think are the main benefits of T Levels? Would you consider switching to A Levels? 

In my opinion, A-Levels often provide a clear route to university, but few people consider other options. With T Levels, you do have the option of going to university, but this programme also makes you more employable and likely to find a job afterwards. T Levels provide you with extensive work experience, whereas if you’re doing A-Levels, you’re at school five days a week and have less time to gain experience and build your CV.

I’m still undecided on whether to go to university or straight into work, which is why doing T Levels is quite good—I’m able to keep my options open. The programme sets me up for either work or university, so I don’t have to decide just yet.

 

Would you recommend T Levels to other students?

Certainly, especially if they find something that they really enjoy doing. There’s no point in doing a placement for your course that’s not relevant to your interests or what you want to do in the future, because you’re not going to have the passion to get anything out of it.

T Levels have given me experience in an industry that I would not have been able to get otherwise, and that has helped me realise what I actually like. I might have thought that I wanted to do digital marketing for a long time, but without actually experiencing it first-hand. So, with T Levels, even if I had not enjoyed the job, at least I’d know that by the time I graduated and be prepared to try something else.

One of my friends didn’t like his placement and has already dropped it. He thought it would be something he enjoyed, but it wasn’t. If you don’t like an industry as much as you thought, you have time to change your route and try something else.

Where would you like to see yourself after you finish T Levels, or in a few years’ time?

I’m not sure yet! I’d like to think I’d be part of management somewhere when I’m older, and, ultimately, I’d like to own my own business, but I’m talking 20-25 years from now. I might change my mind, but for now, I know that I enjoy digital marketing and that I’d love to go into this field!

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