Work experience essential for preparing next apprentices, says Ofsted

Young people who take part in work experience or vocational study at school are more likely to succeed in an apprenticeship than those who have no exposure to the workplace, a report by Ofsted has revealed.

The education watchdog is calling on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to develop “a national set of expectations” for the outcomes of work experience placements, ensuring all young people are prepared for an apprenticeship.

“When preparing post-16s for apprenticeships schools need to provide meaningful work experience,” Matthew Coffey, national director for learning and skills at Ofsted said.

“While the majority of learners are completing their apprenticeships around a quarter are dropping out.

“It is clear that more work experience, vocational study and course tasters are needed to ensure learners are on the right apprenticeship for them and that they understand the demands of work.”

The report asked 15 providers and employers, including Barnsley College, Cornwall College and McDonald’s, how they had successfully recruited young people as apprentices.

Respondents said they needed the transferable skills, such as a professional attitude and a “commitment to employment”, which are picked up and shown by potential apprentices during work experience placements.

“Employers welcomed work experience as a way of evaluating young people’s work ethic,” the report states.

“Young people who had undertaken well-organised work experience, or some form of vocational taster courses while still at school, were more successful in making good progress with their apprenticeship framework than those starting straight from school without such experience.”

Chris Jones, chief executive and director general of City & Guilds, says work experience is a “crucial transition” for young people into the job market.

“Whilst City & Guilds supports work experience to help young people into employment, more needs to be done to create better links between education and employment, so young people are exposed to the world of work while they are still at school and making important choices about their futures,” Mr Jones said.

” Meaningful work experience must be developed with employers and must become be a mandatory part of the school curriculum.”

The Ofsted report says BIS should be improving the availability of careers guidance on post-16 options for young people and also gathering data on those who are unsuccessful when applying for an apprenticeship vacancy.

It also says training providers should be developing more pre-apprenticeship programmes for young people at risk of becoming disengaged with education or employment.

“There has been much concern lately about the quality of apprenticeships,” Mr Coffey added.

“When looking at the national picture we can see that around 70 per cent of apprenticeships are good or outstanding but more needs to be done to improve provision further.

“The apprenticeships for young people best practice report will provide a vast pool of knowledge and examples on how to deliver apprenticeships successfully and will act as a useful guide for trainers, assessors and educational leaders wishing to improve.”

The report later recommends improving the promotion of apprenticeship training to under-represented groups by creating aspirational role models within each provider.

(The “Apprenticeships for young people: A good practice report” can be downloaded here.)