Somerset County Council: An employers' perspective on T Levels

‘Grow our own’ is an important ethos at Somerset Council. T Level placements are one element of a variety of early career routes into the council, and T Level opportunities are making the council an attractive local employer to young people.

Preparing for T Level placements 

Somerset County Council hosted a successful digital T Level industry placement over Summer 2022. The placement supported planning and preparation for the council’s inaugural Business Climate Summit.

T Level placements at Somerset Council have a project-based element, enabling placement students to undertake fulfilling work with purpose. Future planned industry placements include:  

  • a digital placement in the ICT team  
  • a business management placement in the commissioning team 
  • a science placement in the scientific services team.

Somerset Council as an attractive local employer 

‘Grow our own’ is an important ethos at Somerset Council, but as an employer they face local challenges. The rural county has an ageing population and around 1,000 18 to 20-year-olds leave the county each year.  

The council’s Young Person’s Strategy aims to provide a variety of early career routes into the workforce, such as through T Level industry placements, apprenticeships, and graduate schemes. The strategy is embedded within the culture of the organisation and relationships have been fostered across a variety of services who are receptive to hosting industry placements.  

Somerset wants to promote the council as an attractive local employer, particularly as it is harder to recruit young people once they leave the county. But the council has found that traditional recruitment does not ordinarily attract young people into the council workforce. Leaders realise that attracting younger people brings more diversity, fresh ideas, and innovation to the workforce. 

Hosting industry placements 

The council has made good use of strong links with local further education providers and T Level industry placements are promoted as the first step into a career in local government.  

New students begin with a corporate induction designed to be of practical use during their placement. The organisational development team acts as a bridge between the education provider and placement managers, making sure all sides feel fully informed and supported throughout the placement.  

There is trust that team managers will ensure student placements are a positive experience. Students undertake satisfying project-based work which they see through to the end. This ensures students are engaged throughout the placement and feel like a valued team member. T Levels introduces young people to working in a council environment, and further training and employment opportunities can be identified following an industry placement.  

Relationships with students and young employees are nurtured through the Young Employer’s Conference. Through this conference, it has been identified that a Young Person’s Network will help the younger workforce to feel supported, and their feedback will also contribute to the future development of the Young Person’s Strategy.  

Industry placement support from the LGA  

Somerset Council was assigned a named workforce adviser at the LGA, and the council appreciates the expertise and outside perspective provided by the LGA. Although the Young Person’s Strategy is well-embedded across the organisation, regular contact from the LGA enables the council to feel confident in hosting industry placements.  

The LGA keeps councils regularly updated on the T Level scheme through regular bulletins and webinars. Somerset also takes part in regional online workshops. This is a good networking opportunity and a chance to share best practice with other councils considering or hosting T Level placements.