Traineeships are useful, but pre-apprenticeships could be a better fit suggests Catherine Sezen.

The benefit of a traineeship is that it gives an opportunity for the young person and their employer to gain experience of each other through a short-term agreement rather than a permanent job. The student gains work skills and the employer has a chance to judge the trainee’s potential.

At the end of the placement the employer should offer the young person an interview and feedback, regardless of whether or not there is a suitable vacancy. This may lead to a job, but at the very least provides the young person with an employer reference.

What a traineeship doesn’t include, however, is any flexibility to extend. It is a maximum six-month course and the student, college and employer must stick to that. However those of us who work in education know that some young people learn faster than others. For some six months will be more than enough, but others may need longer.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) has always said that while traineeships are a good package, what is needed is a pre-apprenticeship programme tailored to meet individual needs. Traineeships, as they stand, need to meet the needs of a wide range of young people; those who are work-ready and those who would like to get into work but need to develop their employability skills.

We need a more flexible style of programme with a wider range of options.

Students enrolling on a traineeship could be at any level – some will have qualifications at level 2 or 3 – the equivalent of GCSE or A-level – and simply require help to find an apprenticeship to suit their employment aspirations; some may have level 1 skills and may need more preparation time to develop their written English, maths, communication skills and teamwork.

What we need is a more flexible style of programme with a wider range of options – where colleges can decide on the length and content of the course to suit the trainee and the employer.

The government wants to create three million new apprenticeships by 2020 but it must remember that not all young people are ready for a job plus training. It needs to create a solid training scheme to support a variety of young people into work.

If colleges are to deliver two thirds of apprenticeships – as it was suggested by the former skills minister Nick Boles that they should – then the government needs to create the right entry routes into employment.