TLPD TRIP: Kendal College

Inclusive Industry Placements

A case study from the TRIP led by Kendal College in collaboration with Furness College, The Lakes College, Nelson and Colne College and Carlisle College.

The TRIP was part of the first phase of the T Level Professional Development (TLPD) offer, which enabled T Level providers to participate in sector-led, collaborative action research projects.

Project aims

This TRIP had the following aims:

  • To increase the likelihood of industry placement success for disadvantaged learners; including those from areas of deprivation and elevated levels of unemployment, those with Special Educational Needs (SEND), and those with poor mental and/or physical health
  • To better understand learners with low levels of support from parents and carers, in some cases with a history of family long-term unemployment and therefore no clear role model, and potentially from low-income backgrounds
  • To identify the facilitators and barriers to T Level industry placement stability, exploring the reasons behind placement failure and the organisational and practical approaches taken by employers and providers to achieve and sustain placement stability
  • To involve College partners across Cumbria with diverse individual contexts in terms of population density, rurality, deprivation, type and scale of employers, size of student cohort, and with varying degrees of success in placement stability
  • To develop a range of resources, working practices, and collaboration by all partners, which can be used to better prepare students for whom the T Level industry placement would ordinarily be unfamiliar and overwhelming.

Project overview

The project began by making an agreement to broaden the scope initially proposed, which was to research solely the impact of attitudes towards industry placements, potentially associated with worklessness, long term unemployment, and low income.

As a result of early work looking at previous successful placements by project partners, it was observed that in many cases where the individual learner required significant support, multiple factors with potential to cause disadvantage were present. Considering this, Partners agreed to include mental health, special educational needs, and other factors affecting wellbeing (including long travel times and rural isolation), as additional factors to be explored.

The project team then agreed to explore the approaches used to engage employers, parents/carers, and learners to enable a successful industry placement; with a focus on the compounding effect of multiple factors causing disadvantage and thus barriers that required mitigation.

Each partner in the project created a set of case studies (3 or 4 per partner), based on learners selected from a broader sample, who it was felt exemplified a high standard of innovative working with employers, parents/carers, and learners. A clear outcome was that where a supportive employer had been identified, who was open minded and prepared to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate and support the young person, gaining support from parents was significantly more likely.

Each partner has revised (or is in the process of revising) published material aimed at employers, parents/carers, and learners, with the aim of making no assumptions about the value of industry placement held by each, and to acknowledge that ‘barriers’, preconceptions, attitudes etc. may need to be explored and understood in order to find solutions to enable successful placement.

Positive outcomes and expected impact

The evident challenges to ensure successful placement outcomes for T Levels are significant. This project has driven forward a realisation of this fact in each College and has led TRIP partners to involve wider teams of curriculum and support staff in engaging with the process. This understanding will be shared with all those involved in T Levels through alterations to policies and procedures to truly engage with the key factors requiring attention to mitigate against the challenges. For example, local (within College) flexibility around the timely use of the Learner Support Fund to enable solutions to be found quickly to barriers; modes of industry placement attendance driven by the availability of family support, learner’s autistic behavioural traits etc.

SEND and Wellbeing Services have engaged with industry placement teams to a greater extent in the planning and ongoing support of industry placements; where previously they may have been involved where a single factor creating disadvantage was sufficiently serious to require their involvement (e.g. Supported Internship Placements).

The revision of published material is expected to open channels of communication with parents/carers and employers that are likely to identify both risks and opportunities at the planning stage. A small number of case studies in the sample had enabled parents to access the workplace to discuss SEND and mental health directly with a nominated manager; it is anticipated that this practice may become more widespread for all learners, and clearly introduces additional benefits in terms of attitudes towards placement and holistic parental support.

Learners experiencing disadvantage are more likely to access high quality placements as more communicative relationships develop between Colleges and employers.

Future activity to support T Level implementation and delivery

The reports from this Project will be shared with managers in each organisation with the intention of raising the profile of the issues identified through Quality Improvement Plans, and Departmental and individual staff targets.

Participation in successful industry placements will be monitored and reported on for learners with a much wider set of disadvantage criteria.

A campaign to source ‘altruistic employers’ will be undertaken, acknowledging the geographical overlap in each partner College’s catchment.

Recommendations for preparing for T Levels

  • An organisation-level approach should be adopted as early as possible, to avoid silos with individuals or specific teams leading to ambiguous messaging to learners and parents about the T Level experience, and questions about quality, consistency etc.
  • Early communication with employers about the ‘deeper level’ of engagement required from them in order to support a T Level industry placement, including the sharing of details of learning assessment outcomes.