The government’s promised pre-apprenticeship scheme, referred to by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg in July as a “traineeship”, will not be piloted until spring next year, FE Week has learnt.
In response, Graham Hoyle, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers’ chief executive, said “urgent action” was needed to provide a programme for young people who left school with few or no qualifications.
“The Chancellor’s autumn statement provides the opportunity to do this, perhaps using the black box approach that we have seen in the work programme and which the Education Funding Agency is now adopting for other 16-18 provision,” said Mr Hoyle.
“Given the scale of the NEET challenge, we cannot afford to wait for a pilot in the spring.”
A spokesperson from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said there had been no delay and that the plan had always been to announce the locations in the autumn and to ensure that they were up and running from spring 2013.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said on September 6 in Parliament: “There clearly is an issue with 16 to 18-year-olds who need to have a ladder into apprenticeships rather than go straight into a demanding skills course associated with a job.
“We recognise there’s a transitional issue and I’m certainly working with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on how we manage that transition.”
The traineeship scheme was announced in the government’s response to the Holt Review and entrepreneur Jason Holt’s recommendation that the current pre-apprenticeship options needed to be rationalised to better prepare young people for their apprenticeship.
A BIS spokesperson said: “The government accepts that some potential apprentices may need additional support to prepare them to undertake an apprenticeship. The range of provision on offer is designed to meet the varying needs of young people, and the government therefore does not believe that existing schemes need rationalising.
“It will, however, continue to evaluate the effectiveness of this provision, identify and address any emerging gaps, and ensure the range of options is well communicated.”
The department said it was “particularly aware of a gap in provision for unemployed young adults with very low skill levels and no experience of work” and a new traineeship scheme would be piloted to address this.
“The aim of the pilots is to test the effectiveness of employer-led interventions of up to 26 weeks in duration to secure progression for those furthest from the labour market. The pilots will be locally tailored to individuals’ and labour market needs,” said a BIS spokesperson.
The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) described the pilot as an “opportunity to test the water and design traineeships that offer work experience and training to help meet the needs of young people”.