Rethink call on traineeship rules

The leader of a group representing 27 large colleges has called on the government to loosen rules on who can run traineeships.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock announced the traineeships framework this month — just weeks after youth unemployment figures nudged the one million mark — along with rules governing who can offer the scheme.

The scheme, first proposed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in June to help young people gain work-related skills and attitudes, is due to start next academic year.

We believe this approach will provide only a limited perspective as it does not reflect the full range and nuances of the varied grades, differences and aspects of college provision.”

It will include work placements of up to six months, flexible training to build character and to help young people get ready for work — such as job search and interview skills, time-keeping and team working — and will develop learners’ English and maths.
However, providers without an Ofsted grade one (outstanding) or two (good) will not be able to run the scheme in its first year.

Lynne Sedgmore (pictured), executive director of the 157 Group, which represents ‘27 large and successful colleges’, which includes a number at Ofsted grade three, said: “We are concerned at the proposal to use a college’s overall Ofsted grade as the only criteria, and to only allow those colleges with good or outstanding ratings to deliver traineeships.

“We believe this approach will provide only a limited perspective as it does not reflect the full range and nuances of the varied grades, differences and aspects of college provision.

“We also believe that it may carry unintended consequences for the availability of traineeships within certain geographical areas, which could be mitigated by broadening the range of criteria applied.”

She said that her group supported a broadening of the criteria to include evidenced quality, a strong track record and extensive experience of successful work-based learning, plus previous experience of delivering innovative programmes for NEETs and for the unemployed.

“We would also like to see evidence of powerful endorsement and high levels of confidence from employers taken into account, along with strong strategic partnerships with local employers and a strong track record of effective work experience,” she said.

Joy Mercer, director of policy at the Association of Colleges, said: “We’ve already raised this with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and are pleased the eligibility criteria will be for this year in the first instance.

“An Ofsted judgment is a blunt instrument that can hide excellent provision for this targeted group of students and nationally renowned provision with employers.”

The government’s traineeship framework document said that if there was no eligible provider in a location, it would support efforts to “ensure that outstanding and good provision becomes available in that area”.

The government has also said that only 16 to 19-year-olds could take traineeships.

Mrs Sedgmore added that the 157 Group was “fully supportive” of the new framework and its “many positive elements”, including content flexibility, partnerships with employers and meaningful work experience.

But it was keen to see the scheme extended to 19 to 24-year-old and “fully accepted” the need for quality criteria and clarity for existing providers and new entrants. “We firmly believe that FE colleges will be critical to the successful delivery of traineeships,” she said.

A government spokesperson said: “We are announcing the 16 to 19 framework so that delivery of traineeships for this age group will be possible from the start of the 2013/14 academic year.

“We are looking to extend the traineeships programme to young people up to 24.”