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Furniture experts support the development of craft and design T Level route

In October 2021, we announced that we’d been selected by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to develop the technical qualification for a new T Level in craft and design, which will be available for first delivery in September 2023.   

Since then, we’ve been working with leading employers, practitioners and providers from across the sector to develop this technical qualification. So, we thought we’d catch up with some of the individuals who have been involved to learn more about their role, including: 

  • Chris Hyde, Creative Industries Learning Design Director at Activate Learning, who is working with NCFE as an Assessment Writer  
  • Christian Notley, Chief Expert in Cabinet Making at WorldSkills UK, who is working with NCFE as an Assessment Writer 
  • David Tragen, Furniture Designer and Artist, who is working with NCFE as a Product Writer 
  • Joe Temple, Lead Teacher at Thorp Academy, who is working with NCFE as a Writer and Reviewer 
  • Sean Casey, Lecturer in Furniture at Chichester College Group, who's working with NCFE as an Assessment Reviewer.  

Why did you choose to be involved with developing the technical qualification? 

Chris: “I wanted to make a difference in the industry by supporting this new suite of qualifications. It’s important to the industry that future staff are well-rounded in their skills, knowledge and attributes. The furniture and furnishing industry has had the same vocational qualifications for many years. For our employers, developing this qualification creates a choice of pathways into the industry.” 

Christian: “As a member of the T Level panel that developed the original outline for this T Level, it was great to have the opportunity with NCFE to continue working on its development into a full qualification. I’m keen to develop a qualification which will raise the standards of furniture qualifications. The furniture industry is suffering a real skills shortage and the sector needs to trust that the qualifications have strong value and represent quality.”  

Joe: “As a teacher, I’ve spent many years delivering qualifications but never had the opportunity to be involved in the writing process. I wanted to gain a better understanding of how the programmes are structured and developed. . The T Levels will ensure that students are aware of the huge range of career choices available to them within the industry. It’s essential that we provide training in the vocational skills employers are looking for, and these qualifications will help to improve the communication and collaboration between training providers and local companies.”  

What are the skills needs and gaps in your area of work? 

Chris: “Our employers are looking for staff to have an awareness of skills and the ability to work in a team or self-direct. Above all, they value attributes, including confidence, self-esteem and having a professional approach. These will be gained with the employer-set project and work experience within the industry.” 

Christian: “There are skills gaps across the industry in varying areas from bench maker to computer numeric controlled (CNC) operators – so hopefully this T Level is a way of addressing these shortages.”  

Sean: “Hand skills, hand skills and hand skills! The industry is desperate for tradespeople who have practical skills, and not just theoretical knowledge.”  

Why would you recommend others in the sector get involved in supporting T Levels? 

Chris: “For the T Level to land, it needs support from the industry to offer encounters with employers. This will bridge the gap between student and employer and create the right fit for the companies and the individual. I urge everyone to support these by offering opportunities in the workplace to nurture future industry talent. I've really enjoyed the dialogue and the time to reflect and repurpose these qualifications. Having the ability to co-create with the NCFE has been rewarding.” 

David: “Assessing the knowledge and skills students will require to achieve this qualification has been a great opportunity to stop and think in more detail about processes that I’ve taken for granted. By discussing these areas with other practitioners, it’s given me more insight into the teaching side of my work, and working with NCFE’s skilled facilitators has made what initially seemed like a daunting task, much more straightforward.” 

Joe: “It has been a fantastic experience. The writing process was certainly more challenging than I first anticipated but I really enjoyed working with the NCFE team. I now have a very clear understanding of how a qualification is built; this will help not only with my teaching practice but also with the advice we offer to students as they decide on their next steps. T Levels have the potential to offer exciting and innovative opportunities to young people. If we want dedicated and inspired students to join the sector, I believe we need to support the qualifications and raise awareness of the experiences they can deliver.” 

How do you think T Levels will benefit your sector?  

Chris: “They’re part of a national strategic plan where each student who cannot secure an apprenticeship – because of either location or skills and knowledge – can enter the industry from another starting point, so that we continue to welcome all.” 

Joe: “The craft T Levels will offer students a perfect introduction to the sector. The combination of study and work placements will equip young people for a career in the industry. It takes learning outside of a traditional setting and offers an essential insight that will empower them to learn.”   

Sean: “They may attract more academic-minded students to consider postponing going straight to a university to study degrees. We often have students who, after completing a university degree, go to college to train on a practical course, which their university placement didn't cater for. So, if they have a good grounding in practical skills, they have the option of complementing this by going to university or going straight into industry.” 

To find out how you can be part of a once in a lifetime revolution in education which will impact and improve your industry, please visit our T Levels support page

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