Why host students doing engineering and manufacturing T Levels


Engineering and manufacturing are vital to the UK economy. Industry placements give young people the opportunity to experience engineering and manufacturing environments first-hand. Their placement also helps to guide them towards a suitable career in the sector.

Hosting a student on an industry placement is a great way for employers to develop the skills base in their business. Students make a valuable contribution during the placement itself. Many continue working with their host employers when they finish their T Level. Some go on to complete an accelerated apprenticeship at level 3 and move on quickly to higher level apprenticeships. Others go on to university to study their chosen subjects at a higher level.

“Ensuring that we have enough people with the right skills and experience is about bringing a greater number and greater diversity of young people into engineering.”

Hilary Leevers, CEO, Engineering UK

“Inviting young people to discover the wide range of jobs available and enticing them into learning STEM skills will be a key part of creating a workforce fit for the future and narrowing the skills gap.”

Jennifer Read, Electronics Manufacturing Services


Who this resource is for

  • Owners and managers in small and medium-sized engineering and manufacturing businesses.
  • Leaders and managers responsible for maintenance, installation and repair, processing and control, and design and development.
  • HR leads and business partners.
  • Departmental heads.


About the resource

This resource highlights the value to employers of hosting students learning specialist engineering and manufacturing skills.

It contains:

  • A video featuring employers talking about the benefits of hosting students and how they plan, prepare and manage placements successfully.
  • Downloadable infographic with key facts about engineering and manufacturing skills.
  • A case study of an automotive engineering business hosting students on placements.
  • Engineering and manufacturing job roles that students may fill during their placement
  • Checklist of the engineering and manufacturing skills you need in your business.

You can use it to:

  • Decide whether to offer a placement;
  • Work out what the student will do and where they will work;
  • Encourage other people in your organisation to get involved;
  • Plan the placement and create a placement job description that can be shared with potential students.


Videos – How industry placements work in engineering and manufacturing

These short videos share the real experience of hosting T Level students on industry placements, so that more employers can develop the know-how and confidence to host students themselves.

They are aimed at engineering and manufacturing employers who are:

  • Thinking about offering an industry placement for the first time
  • Offering placements already and planning to host more students in future.

Watch the videos to find out how employers benefit from placements and how their students contribute.

There are five videos. Click on the first to watch them all straight through without a break, or click on each one to watch it separately:

  1. How industry placements work in engineering and manufacturing
  2. Benefits to the business
  3. Real work
  4. Relationships with students
  5. Relationships with providers and community.


Engineering and manufacturing skills

Data showing why engineering and manufacturing skills are vital to the UK economy.

  • 18% – percentage % of UK workforce employed in engineering and manufacturing jobs
  • 6.9 million – number of employees in engineering and manufacturing roles
  • 8.5% – percentage growth in the number of people working in engineering occupations between 2010 and 2021
  • 75% – percentage of the workforce in professional, skilled and technical occupations
  • 15% – percentage of the workforce in every UK region working in some type of engineering or manufacturing role
  • 186,000 – number of skilled engineers needed every year until 2024 to plug the skills gap
  • 85% – percentage of engineering and manufacturing firms feeling the strain from a lack of skilled employees
  • 50% – percentage of businesses that have problems recruiting people into the industry because of a lack of skills


Employer case study

Unipres UK is a first-tier supplier to the automotive industry supplying steel pressings and sub-assemblies to customers such as Nissan and Renault. Based in Sunderland in the Northeast, it employs around 900 people and describes itself as ‘a global company powered by local people’.

After agreeing to be part of the T Level pilot, Unipres took six students on industry placements. “The first year was a bit challenging,” admits Rob Dudds, controller of the Unipress UK Training Academy. “Our own staff had to evolve, they had to change their mindsets because this was something new."

“The young people coming in were no problem at all,” he adds. “They were coming into a new, fresh environment anyway, with open eyes. It was us who had to change.”

But the benefits soon became clear. Instead of thinking (and saying) things like ‘Young people coming in, that’s going to slow me down, they’re going to be no help to me‘, line managers and department heads started to see them in a different light. After a short time the students fitted in very well, contributed to their teams, and brought in new ideas.

“After a few weeks we found they could do a job properly on their own, and they all did a very good job,” says Rob.

One of the first T Level students worked in the maintenance department at Unipres. “After a few weeks they had him welding structures together and actually manufacturing things.” He thought it was ‘fantastic’ and so did his line manager.

Another student is now on an apprenticeship learning to become a mechatronics technician – a route which Rob describes as “our future talent pipeline and what we do in engineering. Everything now in robotics is changing, these young people are coming through with new ideas, and they’re part of our plan for the future.”

Getting placement students a job in the company is easy, according to Rob. “They fitted in straightaway, they knew people, and they understood what’s expected. That’s why they’re thriving now."

“It’s like they’ve been in a job interview for a year. It saves me in a year’s time going out to recruit somebody, spending a lot of money. You’ve done it, they’re already there.”

Not all the students have gone on to work in Unipres through. For some, the placement was a chance to make up their minds about their careers. One went on to work in the family’s small manufacturing firm, another went into marine engineering, and a third decided to learn a higher level of skills and knowledge at university. Rob regards these as successes, not failures. “The T Level placement is a stepping stone for them and it brings them into the industry with the skills the industry needs.”

Rob’s final advice for taking on more students, as Unipres is doing? “Pick the right staff to deal with them, put them in the right departments, make sure they’re busy, give them someone to talk to, and make them want to stay – because in a year’s time or two years, they are the people who’ll fill your recruitment pipeline.”


Engineering and manufacturing roles

The table shows some of the most common roles that a student in an engineering or manufacturing placement could fill. Use it to help you consider possible roles for students in your organisation, department or team. It may also help you to think of other roles they could fill as well.

T Level  Job Title  Role 
Maintenance, installation and repair Maintenance Technician Performs routine maintenance tasks, troubleshooting equipment issues, and repairing machinery
Installation Engineer Installs and commissions new equipment or machinery, ensuring proper setup and functionality, and conducts tests to verify performance
Robotics Technician Maintains, troubleshoots and repairs industrial robots and automation systems used in manufacturing processes
CNC Machinist Operates and maintains computer numerical control (CNC)- machines, programming machining operations, and producing precision components
Processing and control Process Control Technician Operates, monitors, and troubleshoots process control systems, ensuring proper functioning and addressing any deviations or issues
PLC Programmer Programmes and configures programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to control and automate manufacturing processes,
Process Engineer Analyses manufacturing processes, identifying areas for improvement and implementing changes to increase efficiency, reduce waste, and improve quality
Continuous Improvement Specialist Supports continuous improvement initiatives, using tools such as Six Sigma or Kaizen to identify and implement process improvements
Design and development CAD Technician Creates detailed technical drawings, models and specifications using CAD software, translating design concepts into accurate representations for manufacturing
Product Development Engineer Helps to develop new products, collaborating with cross-functional teams, conducting market research, and supporting prototype creation and testing
Assembly Technician Performs assembly tasks, following assembly instructions and diagrams and ensuring the accurate and timely completion of product assembly
Simulation Engineer Conducts computer simulations and modelling to analyse and optimise product designs, predicting behaviour under different conditions and validating performance


Checklist – engineering and manufacturing skills in your organisation

Use the checklist to:

  • Identify the skills your organisation needs;
  • Decide where these skills are needed most (which departments, locations etc.).

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