A level results signal a boost for UK manufacturing

Posted on 17 Aug 2023 by Joe Bush

Students around the country are opening A-level, T-level and BTec results. The new T-level courses have been introduced each academic year since 2020, are aimed at 16 to 19-year-olds and focus on practical rather than academic subjects.

With an ageing workforce and a growing requirement for emerging digital skills, the UK manufacturing sector has found itself in a battle for talent and skills in recent years. A sector not always painted in the most flattering light, manufacturing has found itself with a dearth of traditional skills the sector has always required, such as welding and CNC machining.

However, as many UK manufacturing firms begin transforming their businesses to embrace more digital technologies, the sector is now on the look out for skills and looking to fill job functions, not previously on their radar, such as robotics engineers and data scientists; skills sought after by other, perhaps more enticing, sectors.

Despite this, early signs from today’s results announcement looks positive for the sector. Commenting on today’s A Level results, Jamie Cater, Senior Policy Manager at Make UK, said: “Today’s T Level and A Level results are promising for manufacturers who are looking to secure the next generation of skilled workers. More students received the highest grades in STEM A Level subjects than before the pandemic – positive news for the sector.

“It is particularly encouraging to see that 95% of T Level students successfully completed an industry placement – an increase on 2022. This is a vital part of ensuring that young people choosing this route have the opportunity to experience the world of work. Many manufacturing and engineering employers are currently offering their very first T Level industry placements, and it is essential that businesses capitalise on this chance to invest in their future talent.

“UK manufacturing is home to a large number of high-quality apprenticeship opportunities, where T Level students can build on the experience of their industry placement and A Level students can find a rewarding alternative to university. For those students who move on to higher education, Make UK’s research also shows increasing demand for graduate-level skills in manufacturing over the coming years. As both T Level and A Level students consider their next steps, they will find a wide variety of options in manufacturing.”

Beth Elgood, Director of Communications at EngineeringUK, added: “Congratulations to everyone receiving their A Level and T Level exam results today. This cohort of students has experienced significant disruption to their studies over recent years and should be proud of what they’ve achieved.

“With STEM A Levels providing important routes into engineering and tech careers, it’s encouraging that today’s results show a substantial 16.7% increase in the uptake of computing A level – the highest increase for any subject.

“However, the decrease in the number of students taking physics (-3.5%) and design and technology (-6.7%) A levels is concerning, particularly given an overall uptick in A level entries as a whole (+2.2%). It’s also disappointing to see the percentage of girls taking A level physics has remained at just 23% – something we urgently need to address.

“T Levels are still relatively new, but 1,592 students are receiving an engineering related T Level result today, of whom only nine percent are female students. If we are to improve the diversity of the engineering and tech workforce, it’s imperative this proportion improves. It’s also been reported there has been a drop off in the number of students who enrolled on T level courses compared to those receiving their results today – we need to understand and address the reasons behind this.

“As a sector that is challenged with acute workforce shortages, it’s important that we closely monitor and strive to increase both the number and diversity of young people studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) related subjects. Today’s results confirm there is still work to be done.”

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