The government’s commitment to promoting and funding more Apprenticeships has been welcomed by those who are working hard to tackle youth unemployment.
Skills minister John Hayes set out his vision for Apprenticeships, saying that by increasing routes to learning we could “seed opportunities for thousands of Britons and build the economically successful and socially just nation we crave”.
We applaud this vision – but to achieve it, all of us involved in delivering skills and training to young people now need to play our part and think innovatively about how to integrate employment and skills.
Recent reports suggesting that Apprenticeships are not being taken up by the under 25s and those out of work are concerning. And it’s self-evident that to optimise the value of Apprenticeships in addressing the unprecedented challenge presented by youth unemployment, training provision must recognise and respond to the needs of young, unemployed people.
Last year, the government implemented the biggest change to the welfare to work sector in ten years, providing a single, personalised structure for all customer groups and superseding the complicated raft of national programmes previously on offer.
As a provider of the government’s Work Programme, it is also clear to us at Working Links that organisations such as ourselves are in the perfect position to help the youngest benefit claimants prepare for and secure Apprenticeships, ensuring that coveted apprentice slots are going to those who need them most – young people without jobs.
Just after Work Programme launched, we commissioned and published the results of research into employer and young person attitudes towards Apprenticeships. Our results showed that the vast majority of young people were worried about their job prospects. The research also revealed four out of five employers believed that Apprenticeships would help reduce youth unemployment and that an overwhelming number of employers felt that an Apprenticeship gave young people the skills they need to find lasting work.
More controversially, traditional views regarding the skills that employers look for when hiring young people were challenged by the report. Of the employers surveyed, 86 per cent said they look for potential rather than experience when hiring young people and cited soft skills such as ‘a good attitude’ and ‘enthusiasm and motivation’ as key qualities in a potential work ready candidate.
Careers advice was also called into question. The young people surveyed felt that they are not getting enough advice from schools about vocational qualifications such as Apprenticeships – only 24 per cent of young people were given advice on Apprenticeships, while 70 per cent received information about college courses.
It’s clear that both employers and the government see Apprenticeships as crucial to reducing youth unemployment and recognise the positive impact these schemes have on society. We’re working with the government to help realise this vision and help young people into a future of sustainable employment. An integration of the Apprenticeships and the Work Programme will not only help ensure better life chances for the young unemployed, but will further improve the service offered by the Work Programme to young people.
We’re already trialling a project in the South West of England to do just that – a pilot programme that is helping young people who are unemployed to gain the valuable pre-employment skills they need to successfully enter into an Apprenticeship. The pilot is up and running in Plymouth and is about to roll out across the region.
Working Links will share the learning from the pilot with government, employers and other key stakeholders to help develop a workable, nationwide programme that successfully integrates Apprenticeships, the Work Programme and the needs of employers, large and small.
As we pause to evaluate the importance of Apprenticeships in National Apprenticeship Week, we must remember that collaborative working really is key to achieving the government’s vision of securing a better future for the next generation.
Mike Lee, Director, Skills and Young People at Working Links