Blog post

Effectively hosting under 18 T Level industry placements

This blog discusses how Cornwall has successfully supported under-18s in T Level industry placements.

24 October 2022

Rebecca McSorley is the lead practice educator at Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. In this blog, she discusses how to effectively host under-18-year-olds for their Health T Level industry placements and how they can be integrated into future talent pipelines.

We’ve always placed great stock in the grow your own philosophy, recognising how investing in the development of our staff has a positive impact on retention levels. This is particularly important given the complexities of keeping younger staff in rural areas like Cornwall. Prior to hosting T Level students, we’ve been fortunate enough to host many Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) students on placements offering them the opportunity to take the first step into a career in the trust.

Although there is no legal reason that an under 18-year-old can’t do a placement in a clinical setting, there was some hesitance from our ward managers about hosting younger students. Therefore, our first step was to lobby senior management into making sure the trust policy reflected our willingness to host students between 16 and 18, and that this policy is something staff can refer to. We highlighted how a robust process would be implemented prior to taking young students on placement through risk management documentation, offering pastoral care to these students and implementing reflective debriefs with the students on completing their placements.

To ensure a smooth transition onto placements we have implemented a tailored risk assessment document for younger students, which is sent to ward managers to complete along with a copy of our policy for young people. The college then sends a letter for parents and guardians to sign outlining the potentially distressing situations students may witness and offers them the opportunity to withdraw at this point. We also have sessions with the young person prior to them starting their placement informing them as to what they could experience during the placement and explaining the support systems in place.

For any Health T Level student starting a placement with us, we enrol them with our flexi-team, the team responsible for bank staff, and the students are paid for their industry placement. In the first year of their T Level, they join the trust as care buddies, which has elements of being a healthcare assistant (HCA), but not all the responsibilities. They run errands, assist with non-complex hydration and nutrition needs, do basic supervised clinical assessments, deal with telephone inquiries, and meet and greet those coming onto the ward. In the second year, their placement involves all the responsibilities of an HCA. We feel confident in the abilities of the second-year students as they complete the same competency tests as any HCA would prior to being able to work autonomously, though of course still under the supervision of colleagues.

Multiple avenues of pastoral support are available to the students, whether through the college, the practice education team, or named support on the ward. Each student has a named contact on the ward who can help with any daily concerns and in the practice education team, we have a team member who focuses on HCAs and is also the point of contact for our student HCAs. In my role as Lead Practice Educator, I also ensure I check in with ward managers to ensure they don’t have any concerns regarding the student on placement.

At the end of the T Level, as part of our flexi-team, students will then be able to view opportunities advertised to internal staff. We keep lists of those that may be interested in certain roles or development opportunities such as apprenticeships, to contact directly when vacancies go live. If they meet the criteria, internal applicants are automatically shortlisted to interview. We have found this system a great way to retain talent and develop the staff we have working within the trust.

We find that by having these students as paid members of staff who are effectively part-time healthcare assistants, we have alleviated any placement capacity concerns that might arise. We are delighted to receive really positive feedback from students and our colleagues at the end of their placements and reap the benefits of many of these students continuing to work with us. This transition from student to staff member is incredibly easy given how they are already registered with us through our flexi-team, and they appreciate the opportunity to gain a substantive post after finishing their education.

If you have any further questions, please contact Rebecca McSorley at