A YORK student has shone a light on a different pathway to reaching degree qualifications.

GCSE results day arrives on Thursday marking a pivotal moment in the lives of students up and down the country.

For those considering staying in education, A-levels are traditionally the next step up the ladder from the new level two standing, before going to university.

For 19-year-old Alex Long from Strensall, however, participation in T-level studies at York College from September 2020 provided the launchpad for the degree apprenticeship in civil engineering she is now taking and helped fulfil a long-held ambition.

York Press: T-levels provide hands-on practical experienceT-levels provide hands-on practical experience (Image: TRU East)

Her older sister is an apprentice mechanical engineer and Alex had always wanted to be involved in construction.

The government rolled out T-level studies (the T stands for technical) as equivalent to three A-levels but designed to enable students to get work-ready.

They are also an alternative to apprenticeships and other courses for 16 to 19 year olds.

Alex said: “I didn’t know if I wanted to do civil engineering or quantity surveying.

“The T-level course was the only one that gave the broad overview of construction, whereas at the time, a lot of the other courses, like manufacturing engineering were very precise, so I wanted a course that allowed me to explore both.”

Alex’s course in design, surveying and planning for construction was one of the first three with others such as education and childcare, finance, healthcare science, agriculture, land management and production being added with more coming online this summer.

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York College courses span business and professional studies, construction, digital technologies, early years and education plus health and beauty.

An official from the college said the 2023 T-level results showed a 100 per cent pass rate.

Around 20 per cent of a course, or a minimum of 315 hours, is spent on placement.

While her friends were all taking A-levels, Alex said she was able to see the difference between the academic side of what she was studying at the same time as learning on the job.

Alex completed her T-level in design, surveying and planning for construction in 2022 and is now doing a degree apprenticeship in civil engineering with the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) East.

Prior knowledge of each other - picked up in the T-level - made the jump to the next level start from a surer footing.

Alex said: “They knew me and they knew my work ethic.

“I asked the question about halfway through my placement because I needed to know if I needed to look at other places.

“They were like, ‘No, absolutely, we’ll take you on as a degree apprentice. If you let us know what you want to go into, we’ll help you find the Unis'.”

Donald Doughty from TRU East said: "We greatly benefitted from working with hosting Alex across the course of her T-level on industry placement.

“Her proactivity, fresh insight and ideas helped to improve the way we did things on the upgrade.

“Her time with us on industry placement meant not only did she learn the key skills needed to thrive in the engineering space, but we also learned from her.

“Since Alex completed her T-level, we've taken on three other students, who we look forward to supporting and helping nurture valuable skills.”

Degree apprenticeships of the kind being taken by Alex last for between three and six years depending on the course level.

‘Get the Jump’ is part of the Department for Education’s Skills for Life campaign and helps young people aged 14-19 explore their education and training choices, including T-levels, apprenticeships, and Higher Technical Qualifications. Find out more here.