Case study

T-level graduate — Joe Harper

Joe has completed the Digital Production Design and Development T-level at Havant and South Downs College, and is now set on becoming a project manager in the tech industry

Why did you decide to pursue one of these new T-level courses?

I spotted that this new T-level course was launching in 2020, so decided to apply as it looked really interesting.

I'm a practical learner, so liked the fact the course included a mix of learning in the classroom and on-the-job training. All T-levels also include a 'hands on' placement with an employer, accounting for at least 45 days (20% of the course).

At the time, I wanted to gain some real-life experience in the digital industry, so this was a big factor in my decision to choose a T-level over the other options available.

What was the application process like?

It was fairly simple and not too different from applying for any other college course. After applying in the November, to start the following September, I was invited to a telephone interview. I was delighted to be offered a place on the course after receiving my GCSE results.

Why did you choose this course?

My dream career at the time was to become a software engineer and developer, and that's why I chose to study a T-level. I knew that a practical course where I could develop software development skills would really help me get ahead in my career.

Even though my career goal has now changed, the T-level has given me a variety of skills, knowledge and experience. It has also helped me to discover my new goal - to become a project manager in the tech industry.

Tell us a bit about the course.

In the first year of my two-year course, we focused on learning the knowledge required for our selected specialism. I also completed a placement at Scotia Gas Networks. I really enjoyed this experience, and it was great to work alongside experts and understand how things run on a day-to-day basis.

How is the course assessed?

In the first year, you complete two exams and an Employer Set Project (ESP). In the second year, you complete an industry placement with an employer and take an Occupational Specialism exam. The exam is similar to the ESP, but you have to complete it by yourself. You'll be expected to write your own code, create a proposal, and write a detailed evaluation.

If you're a practical learner, the mixture of classroom learning and on-the-job training a T-level provides will work well for you. I found the way the course is assessed allowed me to demonstrate my skills and knowledge to the best of my ability.

How is college life different to school?

At college, you have to be more mature than at school because you're treated as adults. You need to be on top of your work and remain focused. If you're interested in gaining real-life industry experience rather than simply learning through study, a T-level may be for you. The extended industry placement is a great way to acquire the practical skills you need to enter your chosen industry and gain the skills employers are looking for.

Lots of my course friends discovered their dream job while doing a T-level. One of the best things about the qualification is you have lots of options available to you when you finish. For example, some people go straight into jobs, others go to university or on to higher apprenticeships.

So, if you have a passion for a T-level subject, I'd suggest going for it. My college course was super fun and really interesting. I'd thoroughly recommend it to other students.

What do you plan to do next?

I hope to secure an apprenticeship in project management. I've applied for a few apprenticeships and I'm waiting to hear back. One of my T-level placement employers has also offered me a job and a potential apprenticeship with them next year - so I'm also considering that option.

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