Post 16 Options: Technical learning

10th December 2019 by Richard Allnutt

The Technical learning landscape remains a complicated picture (as of 2019). However, by 2023 we will see a more streamlined system with 25 T Levels (Level 3 qualifications) front and centre. The Further Education sector (England) is actively working towards this and evolving. From 2020 the 25 T Levels will be phased in until all are available by September 2023.

The 25 identified industry sectors are;

(Phase 1, September 2020)

Digital production, design & development

Design, surveying and planning


(Phase 2, September 2021)

Building services engineering

Digital business services

Digital support and services


Healthcare science

Onsite construction


(Phase 3, September 2022)




Maintenance, installation and repair

Manufacturing and process

Design, development and control

Human resources

Management and administration

(Phase 4, September 2023)

Animal care and management

Agriculture, land management and production

Craft and design

Cultural heritage and visitor attractions

Media, broadcast and production

Hair, beauty and aesthetics


In the meantime, CareerWave has tried to simplify the current (as of Winter 2019) landscape to help you better understand the picture and technical choices available. This might be confusing for many, still, and therefore recommend that you talk to your school’s Careers Leader, course leaders at Colleges and Sixth Forms and, ideally, whoever provides the independent and impartial Personal Guidance in your school. Perhaps it is CareerWave who fulfils this role for you!?

So, in a nutshell, what is Technical learning?

Mainly hands-on and practical learning. Delivered in simulated work environment and workshops. Mostly assessed by coursework and observations. Theory is taught in classroom and can include some exams.

Foundation Learning (Entry Level and Level 1) e.g. Catering, Childcare, Bricklaying, Beauty

• ‘catch all’ term given to Entry Level and Level 1 qualifications.

• in some job-specific trades you start at Level 1 no matter what grades you get e.g. bricklaying.

• personal and social development, vocational pathways, supported employment.

• progression into semi-skilled employment, apprenticeships or Level 2 courses.

Tech Certs/Levels (Level 2 and 3) e.g. Joinery, Engineering, Plumbing, I.T., Media, Agriculture

• recognised by employers, trade, professional bodies and supported by Universities.

• specialise in an industry or train for a specific job.

• develop specialist knowledge and skills.

• progression from Level 2 to Level 3.

• progression to Apprenticeship, Higher Apprenticeship or Degree Apprenticeship.

• progression to a related Higher Education course e.g. HND, Foundation Degree, Degree.

• progression into employment. Job readiness is the main focus of Technical Qualifications.

Applied Generals (Level 3) e.g. Sport, Health & Social Care, Performing Arts, Applied Science

• recognised by Universities and supported by employers, trade and professional bodies.

• focus on a wider industry area or career family.

• develop transferable knowledge and skills.

• tend not to provide specialist knowledge and skills for a specific job.

• primarily for students who want to continue their education through applied learning.

• progression to a Higher Education. Continued learning is the main focus of Applied Generals.

• progression into Apprenticeships, Higher Apprenticeship or Degree Apprenticeship.

• progression into employment however may need further training to do the specific job.

In a College of Further Education, you are likely to study a Technical Qualification on its own. In 6th Form you can study a ‘smaller’ Level 3 Technical Qualification alongside other qualifications, such as A-levels or other Technicals.

T Levels will, in time, replace all Level 3 learning (i.e. Level 3 Tech Levels and Level 3 Applied Generals), but there will still be progression pathways from Foundation Learning tier (Entry Level and Level 1) and Level 2 courses. Not everyone will want/need/be able to study to Level 3.