Paul Noblet from Centrepoint, which recently carried out research into how traineeships are being implemented, argues that it is a good thing that traineeships aren’t just geared at helping to boost apprenticeship starts.

The government’s ambitious plans for creating three million apprenticeships must not lead training providers into the trap of chasing outputs rather than responding to the ambitions and needs of the young people we want to support into training and employment.

FE Week reported recently that only 22 per cent of traineeships led to an apprenticeship.

This is OK. In fact, because they provide an opportunity for intensive, tailored support that is funded by the government, they may be the best way of providing young people furthest from the job market the soft skills and routine they need to find employment.

Our research shows that only one in five homeless young people are interested in pursuing an apprenticeship.

Access to apprenticeships is important, but satisfying an arbitrary number should not be our sole motivator.

Through almost 50 years of working with homeless young people, we know a key part of escaping homelessness is the ability to find a meaningful job that provides a sufficient income to leave it behind.

That is why Centrepoint has begun to provide traineeship programmes, working with young people we already accommodate to bring them closer to work.

We shouldn’t assume that all young people on traineeships necessarily want to go on to do an apprenticeship.

Our research shows that only one in five homeless young people are interested in pursuing an apprenticeship.

Perhaps this is because they have endured chaotic childhoods, so are often keen to get into work quickly, in an effort to become independent and enjoy the stability with their housing and income they lacked growing up.

A low-wage apprenticeship is unlikely to be able to provide that. Often it is only at the point of reaching some stability that young people will again consider FE.

The advent of the new Youth Obligation could push young people into traineeships.

Our concern is that if traineeships morph into pre-apprenticeship programmes we will effectively be pushing young people towards apprenticeships, when they may prefer to start work immediately.

The situation is further complicated by the low level of the apprenticeship minimum wage, which as a sole source of income could well cause young people to fall behind on their rent.

With the government focusing a great deal of its resources on apprentices in more glamorous, high-skill sectors, rather than engaging with companies who are able to offer a lower entry point accessible to disadvantaged young people, there is a real danger that vocational education itself will become a two-tiered pathway.

Research by Centrepoint and the Institute for Employment Studies bears this out.

Just four per cent of companies we spoke to said they target traineeships at the group, disadvantaged young people, they are designed to help. And, given their lack of promotion, who can blame them?

Traineeships should form the foundations of the government’s ambition of helping young people into work.

But that foundation needs to be much more accessible for those who are furthest from work.

Traineeships have an intrinsic value for young people, particularly those furthest from the job market, and they have clear benefits for companies too.

The job market has been especially competitive for young people since the financial crash of 2008. Most of the vulnerable young people we work with need little incentive to start work; they crave the independence it could bring.

What they need more than their peers is the type of intensive support that a traineeship can provide.

But we can’t rely on the enthusiasm of young people alone.

The government needs to actively promote traineeships to disadvantaged people to show them how it can help them get into work.

The sector is in danger of missing the real point of traineeships, if we keep chasing arbitrary outputs that ignore young people’s real aspirations.

We should be relaxed that only 22 per cent of trainees go on to an apprenticeship. What really matters is not the current focus on traineeships as pre-apprenticeship programmes, but on supporting young people into work.