T Levels

Have you heard about the new T Levels? The government has described them as ‘the biggest overhaul of post-school education in 70 years'. But what are they? And how will they affect training and apprenticeships in the hairdressing, beauty and barbering industry?

Visit the government's website about T Levels.

This blog post covers: 

What are T Levels? 

T Level is short for ‘Technical Level’. T Levels are new technical qualifications for those aged 16 -18. They will become one of three major options for students to study at Level 3, alongside apprenticeships and A Levels.

T Levels are designed with employers to give young people the skills that the industry needs. They will provide a mixture of:

  • Technical knowledge and skills specific to their chosen industry or occupation.
  • An industry placement of at least 315 hours (approximately 45 days) in their chosen industry or occupation.
  • Relevant maths, English and digital skills.

15 technical routes were set up following the Sainsbury ReviewOccupational maps were also developed to create a common framework across all technical education covering both employment-based learning apprenticeships and college-based (T Levels) programmes. The maps determine how occupations are categorised and  where T Levels are administered.

Hair, beauty and aesthetics is one of the technical routes. The T Level content comes from the occupational map at Level 3 and includes hairdressing, barbering and beauty therapy.

Watch a short Department for Education video about T Levels.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) will be leading on apprenticeship and T Level development. Its business plan outlines how it intends to make a positive impact on the design and delivery of apprenticeships and T Levels.

Read the government's T Level action plan.

How are T Levels being developed?

Employers and providers are working together to develop each T Level with support from the DfE and IfATE. Groups of employers define the skills and requirements for each T Level course by participating in T Level panels. This ensures that students taking T Levels will develop the technical knowledge and skills required by employers in that industry.

The T Level panels have been developing the content for the qualifications based on the same standards as apprenticeships and these plans are being tested and reviewed with students, education providers and employers.

Find practical tools and resources to help you understand, decide, plan and prepare to offer T Level placements. Watch a YouTube video about hair and beauty placements. Find out more about offering placements for hair and beauty T Levels.

The final Hair, Beauty and Aesthetics T Level outline content has now been published.

One awarding organisation will be approved at a later date to deliver these qualifications.  

NHBF CEO, Caroline Larissey, who is a member of the T level panel, said: “We are pleased that the Hair, Beauty and Aesthetics T Level outline content has been published.  While we are convinced that employers in hairdressing or barbering will always prefer apprenticeships to T levels, employers are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit school leavers.

"Once T levels are available, there may be even fewer school leavers coming onto the market, leaving employers with little option but to take on learners who have at least achieved a relevant T level.  Employers can also use the work placements as an opportunity to identify young people they would want to take on and train further.  As beauty therapy courses are well-established in colleges, we believe the beauty therapy T level route will be popular with employers.”

Update: November 2020

The Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education has issued its invitation to tender for the fourth wave of T Levels to be taught from September 2023 onwards. This includes the Hair, Beauty and Aesthetics T Level. Find out more.

Find out more about studying for a hairdressing T Level.

Update: January 2024

After much lobbying by the National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF) the Secretary of State for Education announced in March 2023 the decision to delay the delivery of the Hairdressing, Barbering and Beauty Therapy (HBBT) T Level to 2024. Since then, the Government has met regularly with the NHBF, hairdressing, barbering and beauty professionals and employers to discuss their skills needs, as well as with other sector representatives regarding the planned HBBT T Level.

In beauty, the sector told the government that a good quality level 3 classroom-based progression route is desirable. Therefore, the government has announced it will explore introducing a T Level which focuses on the beauty sector, with an emphasis on science, and the expectation that this could be introduced after 2025. Read the full statement.


What will T Levels offer?

For the hair, beauty and aesthetics technical route the T Level course will include the following compulsory elements:

  • A technical qualification which will include:
    - Core theory (how the sector operates, regulatory requirements, health and safety, sales and marketing, the client journey, client consultation).
    - Specialist skills and knowledge in hairdressing, barbering or beauty therapy.
  • A relevant and meaningful work placement with an employer of 315 hours (approximately 45 days), at no cost to employers.
  • Core English, maths and digital skills: by the end of the programme learners will need to have achieved level 2 English and maths (Grade 4).
  • Transferable skills for use in the workplace.

Students who pass all the elements of their T Level will get a nationally recognised certificate showing an overall pass grade of merit or distinction. The certificate will also set out details of what the student has achieved, including their industry placement and grades for individual elements of the T Level.

Find out more information about T Levels including funding, a timeline and how to get involved.

Apprentice hair dresser

Industry placements

Employers can offer work placements as a block, day release or a mix of both, and may be able to share part of the placement with another employer if necessary. The focus  will be on developing the practical and technical skills required for the occupation. 

Providers will support employers offering industry placements. This will include help with the paperwork and planning and designing the industry placement.

You may already know providers if you have apprenticeships or already offer work experience. Ask them what plans they have for industry placements and T Levels. 

Links with local providers are useful if you recruit locally, because they are likely to have students who live within easy travelling distance.

If you don't already have relationships with providers, you can search for a local T Level school or college here

Here are some  tips on things to think about when choosing a provider and questions you might want to ask them and how to interview, assess and choose the right student

Funding and support for providers

The government recognises that significant additional funding will be needed for the successful introduction and delivery of T Levels. They have already announced funding of £500 million a year to help providers meet the costs of additional teaching hours and organising industry placements.

Providers of the first three T Levels will be able to apply for funding for up-to-date equipment and facilities. They will also be able to access training to help prepare their teachers and leaders. Find out more on the government website.

T Level Transition Programme

A transitional programme will be developed and phased in which will focus on providing an effective preparation for students to complete a T Level. It will be targeted at young people who are not ready to start a T Level at age 16 but who can realistically be expected to complete one by age 19. The T Level Transition Programme will support students to develop the academic skills, technical skills, knowledge and behaviours required to complete a T Level through tailored provision that supports their progress.

When will T Levels be introduced?

The new T Levels are currently being developed and will be fully in place by 2023.

The hair, beauty and aesthetics T Level will be ready for delivery in 2023.

Other areas of study will include software design, construction, legal and finance, catering, agriculture, and childcare.

Some T Level providers have already been confirmed by the government for courses in the digital, construction and education/childcare sectors. Find out more.


What about existing apprenticeship schemes?

T Levels will not replace the current apprenticeships in hairdressing, barbering, beauty therapy and nail services  

 They will sit alongside apprenticeships and A Levels offering an additional route into work.

Find out more about apprenticeships in the UK and read our blog posts about taking on an apprentice:

What does the NHBF say?

Caroline Larissey, NHBF chief executive says, “Following several meetings, where we outlined the concerns of our Members, we are pleased that the Minister has listened and taken on board our recommendations to support our sector, by focusing on a Beauty T level and no longer introducing a combined Hairdressing, Barbering and Beauty Therapy (HBBT) T Level.

Employers from hair salons and barbershops will always prefer that a prospective employee should enter the sector via a “job ready” route or qualification, such as an apprenticeship or through an equivalent college-based Level 2 qualification.

Emerging findings from our latest state of the industry survey in January show that finding experienced staff and apprentices is still a major barrier to growth for the sector.

It is envisioned that the beauty T level will provide academic kudos with stakeholders for progression into advanced therapies and aesthetics, because of its greater technical and academic bias compared with the traditional vocational pathway’.

Please email Caroline Larissey, NHBF CEO, for further information about how to get involved. 

Barber lights


  • T Levels are new college-based technical qualifications.
  • The aim is to help individuals gain skilled employment.
  • They will be available to those aged 16 and over.
  • There will be a hair, beauty and aesthetics T Level.
  • Current apprenticeship schemes and A level qualifications will continue.
  • It’s expected that the new T Levels will be fully in place by 2023.

More from the NHBF

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Updated 25 May 2021