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Digital industry placements - Pre-placement



This section of the toolkit can help you design placements including flexibility, timing, student objective setting and making sure students are ready for their placements. It can help you:

  • consider which aspects of the pre-placement process you want to review
  • make sure that placements are well designed
  • make sure T Level students have a clear and comprehensive picture of what the placements involve.

How to use these resources

Select the relevant resources for your needs. They cover:

  1. Collaboration and flexibility in placement design
  2. Placement sequencing and timetabling
  3. Student readiness and objective setting

Use them to design placements, sequence learning, and set objectives. Decide whether the templates and checklists are useful and relevant as they are, or whether they should be altered to suit your organisation

Who are they for?

Share the templates, examples and checklists with staff who are involved in designing the placements and specifying the learning activities students will undertake during placements:

  • T Level course leaders and tutors
  • other staff involved in placement design.

Collaboration and flexibility in placement design

This checklist and template contain the essential topics to cover when planning placement details with the employer before the student starts. It can be used to:

  1. guide provider employer discussions
  2. decide who needs to be involved in the discussions
  3. check that everything is in place before the student starts.


Flexible placement design
Topics Considerations

Working patterns

Working hours

Students may be expected to work longer hours, for example, to fulfil a brief or use weekends for systems maintenance, so that the placement meets the employer's needs. Working hour arrangements should follow working time regulations and industry placement delivery guidance.  

Working days

Employers may have a clear preference for students to work on particular days of the week. These days may vary during the placement, for example when extra staff are needed or to match the availability of mentors.

Peak and seasonal periods

Digital businesses may have peak periods, such as when a project reaches a critical stage. This could place extra demand on students and provide them with good experience of working under pressure. Placements in non-digital businesses can have seasonal patterns which can also increase demand and provide good experience. Examples are year-end in an accountancy business, summer holidays for travel companies, and festivals for food producers and retailers. Employers may have other requirements and milestones in their operational calendar which may need to be negotiated when planning placements.

Induction and training

Employers will normally deliver an induction to students, which may be done in a short block, such as a week, even if the rest of the placement is day release. Students may also be required to work on different days if relevant training has been organised, for example, new software training.

Placement models

Day release

This is the most flexible model, in that it allows the placement learning to be aligned to the curriculum. Students build their understanding of theory and can apply their knowledge and skills straightaway in the work environment.

For example, a large retail chain offers placements to students in its IT support team helping internal customers. In Year 1, students observe and then support an experienced member of the team, responding to user enquiries and maintaining customer response database records. Students work more independently and with less supervision in Year 2, helping staff with hardware, software, and technology products.

In another example, a legal firm starts students on placement in the IT Support Desk with a short block of two weeks, introducing them to the organisation’s systems and software. Students then attend for two days a week, learning to handle ‘quick fixes’ and gradually being introduced to more business-critical and complex systems. By the end of the placement, students have become “just another member of the team”.

Block placements

In this model, students often build their skills and gain confidence before they join the placement for an extended period. Blocks can allow students to work closely with project teams, experiencing more continuity and a sense of completion rather than having to stop and restart.

For example, Ajar Technology and Cranford College plan blocks of four weeks in Year 1 and five weeks in Year 2. This approach fits the project-based work pattern well, as students work intensively on projects. Complementary activities are planned into the blocks, such as visits from suppliers.


This model mixes day release and block models, such as an initial induction block followed by one day per week in Year 1, and block placements in Year 2.

For example, students on placements in the social media unit of a travel company help to develop live briefs for website development and rebranding. Regular weekly attendance in Year 1 means they see the complete cycle of social media content production. Attending a block in Year 2 allows them to develop more specialist skills in app creation.

In another example, students working as part of the digital marketing team in a creative media production company contribute to one campaign each year. Attendance patterns are flexible to suit the production cycle. This allows students to experience different stages in the cycle including campaign planning, testing possible messages, developing value propositions with customers, and analysing data to understand why and how customers engage with email marketing, social media, and websites. Being progressively involved in increasingly complex work also allows students to build skills and confidence across the two years.

Two Employer Model 

Digital businesses include SMEs, micro-businesses, sole traders, and freelancers. If a small employer can’t commit to a whole placement on their own, they may be able to share it with another organisation, such as two businesses in the supply chain to a larger business.

For example, shared placements between a high street bank and some of its customers are giving 20 students the chance to learn how the bank operates, how its systems are created and maintained and how they are used by customers. Students start their placements by understanding the bank’s regulated operating environment; learning about risk, data security, and GDPR. They then experience various banking operations including data analysis, web services and compliance. The block model allows the bank and its customers to plan and manage placements for a group of students.

In another example, Hampshire Constabulary took four Fareham College students. They were initially working on day release but then a series of blocks allowed them to move between different support functions within the organisation. Four students were initially embedded in a small team of 7. As the placement evolved, they became a mini team. The team were given assignments and tasked with organising themselves into roles to take these forwards. This was like working for a client, students had to work to a brief and then present their design and development to the wider team and other in-house clients.



The Digital T Level curriculum is demanding, especially when factoring in project working and assessment. Matching the curriculum and placements is a two-way process which works best when providers and employers collaborate flexibly. Course leaders and tutors know the subject and can talk the right language with employers. They can explain what is in the curriculum and discuss how to shape the placement, based on when and how students develop the necessary skills to "hit the ground running" when the placement starts. Flexing the curriculum plan is likely to make the idea of a placement more attractive to employers. To ensure you have enough time to plan the curriculum and take into account local skills needs, early employer engagement is key.

Technical skills

The sequence in which students learn technical skills may be partly determined by curriculum considerations, but it may also be influenced by employers’ needs. For example, Fareham College recognised that some employers use Java for programming. Whilst the curriculum teaches Python in Year 1, they have added Java content. Employers may also require students to have developed some skills before they start the placement or in between placement blocks.

Employability skills

Placements provide plenty of opportunities for students to gain employability skills and develop professional behaviours. Students are likely to benefit from understanding what these skills and behaviours are, before starting placement and when reviewing what they have learned during the placement or between blocks


Arrangements for assessing student work and progress while they are on placement should be agreed upon with the employer. If employers are involved, for example by providing employer statements, they should be made aware of the criteria being used.


Placements should be progressively designed to provide a suitable gradient of demand for students. Employers can play a useful part in varying the level of demand, for example, by stretching the range and complexity of programming, giving students progressively more responsibility for tasks, or increasing the level of contact with customers.


Placement start

Students should have sufficient technical skills to cope with the demands of the role before the placement starts. Employers can help to identify these skills and set acceptable standards. Students should have enough time to prepare properly. Once the placement starts, employers should be flexible in adapting their expectations and requirements to suit individual students’ strengths and areas for improvement. 


Clear milestones should be set for students while on placement. These milestones can relate to the development of technical and employability skills. Employers can help to devise appropriate milestones. This may be especially useful for the occupational specialism in Year 2, where employers may have specific ideas for what students should learn and accomplish.


Time must be made available for students to make up any shortfall in hours if they risk not meeting the minimum hours for any reason before the end of the placement. This will require flexibility from employers as well as the student and teaching staff.

Safety and security

Health and safety

Employers must provide a safe environment for students and providers should be confident that effective health and safety arrangements are in place before students start their placements. Normal office safety protocols and HR practices apply, but training must be given where roles in digital support require lifting or moving of equipment.


Employers’ liability and public liability insurance must cover any potential loss or liability caused by or to the student, in relation to the placement. Students on digital placements may take part in projects which involve external clients and there may be some degree of risk of data breach or programme error, for which employers must be covered. Small and micro businesses may need guidance about insurance.

Digital security

If employers have concerns about digital security, Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) should be put in place, which students sign before the placement starts.


Disclosure and Barring (DBS) checks may be required. Although not necessarily a requirement for members of staff supervising students, checks may be required or advisable where students are likely to be alone regularly with an individual adult.

Template - Flexible placement design

Placement sequencing and timetabling

This template and example show how to sequence and timetable a digital placement so that links with the curriculum are clearly shown. It includes a timeline of the key stages involved in preparing for and managing a placement. It can be used to:

  1. plan the Digital T Level curriculum
  2. align the placement and curriculum so that they complement each other and support the transfer of theory to practice
  3. share with employers the skills students will acquire and practise during the two years of the T Level.

Template - Placement sequencing and timetabling


Placement sequencing and timetabling

Year 1

Autumn term

Spring term

Summer term

Curriculum content


Introduction to programming

Business context

Employer Set Project (KWA)

Practical programming skills


Digital environments

Employer Set Project (KWA)

More practical programming

Emerging issues and impact of digital

Legislation and regulatory requirements

Digital environments (continued)

Practice paper

Employer Set Project (KWA)

Practical programming skills


Practice Papers

Revision – all units

Employer Set Project (KWA)

Practice under controlled conditions

Employer Set Project

Set by the exam board and must be completed within a specific timeframe

May –June

Revision then exams


Core Paper 1 exam

Core Paper 2 exam

Web development course when not in placements



Placement starts one day per week

Placement one day per week

Placement one day per week

Placement block

Year 1

Autumn term

Spring term

February to May

Curriculum content

Develop practical skills:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • PHP

Task 1: Analysing the problem and designing the solution

Complete practice activities, then Task 1 of the exemplar OSP

Develop practical skills:




Using PHP and SQL in a website to interact with a database. Using APIs to interact with other media

Task 2: Develop a prototype design solution

Students will learn about deployment methods, change management, design, and risk

They will complete practice activities, then Task2 of the exemplar OSP

Gathering and analysing feedback

Evaluate the reliability of different sources of information

Factors that drive change in digital products

Task 3: Gathering feedback to inform future developments

Task 4: Evaluate feedback to inform future developments

OSP window opens from 7th February for 11 weeks.  During this time students will complete the project set by the exam board under controlled conditions


Placement two days per week

Placement two days per week

Placement two days per week

Placement block

Timeline template - Key stages in preparing for and managing placements

Student readiness and objective setting

This checklist lists everything that must be considered before students start their placements, including learning objectives. It can be used to:

  1. prepare students in advance
  2. discuss with employers what they expect and require of students when they start the placement.


Preparing students for placement

Technical skills and knowledge

Does the student:

  • Have the technical skills and knowledge needed for the industry placement
  • Need any additional support to meet the employer’s requirements, such as coding
  • Understand basic data protection and computer misuse legislation
  • Understand intellectual property and copyright issues that might arise if they create programmes or apps in the workplace

Employability skills

Has the student:

  • Learned the employability skills they need to start the placement
  • Shown that they can work to project deadlines
  • Demonstrated the personal attributes which would enable them to perform well in the placement
  • Completed the self-assessment tool

Professional behaviours and attitudes   

Has the student:

  • Shown an understanding of what behaviours might be expected in the workplace
  • Understood guidance on dress codes
  • Been shown how to develop relationships with team members, managers, and customers

Practical placement considerations 

Does the student know:

  • Which days they will attend the placement
  • The start and finish times for each day
  • How will they travel to and from the placement
  • Where to find timetables so they arrive on time
  • How much money they will need for things like bus fares and lunch
  • What clothes and equipment they need to take, including materials to take notes
  • Whether they will be provided with a laptop or access to digital equipment
  • The contact details for their employer, and who to ask for when they arrive
  • Contact details for the provider in case of any emergencies or on-placement queries

Support and mentoring

  • Has an Industry Placement Agreement been signed by all parties?
  • Has the employer identified who will supervise the student on site?
  • Has a workplace mentor been arranged?
  • Have review meetings been planned?
  • Have arrangements for ongoing communication been made with the student?
  • Does the student know where to go for advice on how to deal with any instances of bullying or inappropriate conduct, and how to raise concerns?
  • Have parents/carers been informed about what to expect during placement?

Learning objectives 

  • Have learning objectives been set for the student on placement?
  • Do the objectives cover technical and employability skills?
  • Does the student know that their progress and behaviours will be assessed during placement?
  • Do they know how attendance will be recorded (see student logbook template)?
  • Do they know how to reflect on their experiences during the placement, for example using online tools or templates?


Consider whether students will:

  • Be reimbursed for their expenses (travel, meals and so on)?
  • Receive a bursary?
  • Be paid by the employer (see guidance)?
  • Be provided with equipment, for example, a laptop?

Template - Preparing students for placement

Learning objectives

This example is for the Digital Business Services Occupational Specialism: Data Technician. There are other examples of both types of objectives for each of the pathways on the Digital route. Objectives should be customised for each student to reflect the specific role they undertake using the role description (see the Enrolment section of this toolkit and delivery guidance).

Template - learning objectives


Role title Working pattern

To be agreed by the provider and employer

Junior Data Associate


315 hours


To support the data function by collating and formatting data to facilitate processing and presentation for review and further advanced analysis by others to give a clear understanding of a product, service, or issue.

Typical activities

  1. Support teams using data on a regular basis (at least twice a week) by sourcing data from various in-house systems and external sources to a project brief by
    • meeting with teams to explore their requirements
    • identifying potential sources of data
    • receiving and confirming a brief
  2. Work under supervision to carry out common data blending techniques (at least twice a week) with data from multiple sources by
    • collating and classifying data
    • quality assuring the data collected
  3. Work in a team to present data in a relevant format (at least once a week) appropriate to the project task for different audiences by
    • understanding different audience requirements needs
    • selecting appropriate data visualisation methods

Learning goals



On the placement, the student will need to further develop and hone through activity 1:

Employability skills

  • Self-managing: monitoring, reflecting, and inviting feedback on own performance, managing time, setting personal goals, referring to others for advice
  • Communicating: active listening, use of visual, oral, and written methods, engaging an audience, sharing, building rapport, adapting style and tone
  • Planning: identifying discrete steps, estimating time and resources, prioritising, coordinating, sequencing activity

[Insert the corresponding reference from the TQ content]

Technical skills

  • Receiving and confirming a brief
  • Sourcing and migrating data from different sources which their team has already identified
  • Collecting data from the web, social media, spreadsheets and/ or audio-visual sources on a given product or service and organising it into an easy-to-use format

On the placement, the student will need to further develop and hone through activity 2:

Employability skills

  • Self-managing: monitoring, reflecting, and inviting feedback on own performance, managing time, setting personal goals, referring to others for advice
  • Creativity: lateral thinking, making novel connections, handling ambiguity, taking acceptable risks, forming ideas iteratively, future-proofing
  • Decision making: clarifying logical choices, identifying likely impact, using evidence and advice, justifying, substantiating, concluding
  • Recording: transcribing, noting, capturing, saving, storing

Technical skills

  • Under supervision, manipulating and linking different data sets
  • Using tools and techniques to identify trends and patterns in data
  • Under supervision, using cross-checking techniques for identifying faults in the data results for data project requirements
  • Under supervision, saving and storing data as required by the organisation
  • Cleaning data for example by removing typos, duplicate entries and out-of-date data

On the placement, the student will need to further develop and hone through activity 3:

Employability skills

  • Presenting: conveying information to an audience to stimulate discussion, and/or secure consistent understanding.
  • Communicating: active listening, use of visual, oral, and written methods, engaging an audience, sharing, building rapport, adapting style and tone

Technical skills

  • Summarising and explaining the gathered data
  • Producing clear documentation using standard organisational templates
  • Using different data visualisation techniques e.g., tables, charts, graphs and/or 3D models

Downloadable resources

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