A revised framework for traineeships has revealed a programme more restrictive for 19 to 24 year-olds than their 16 to 19 counterparts.

The updated Traineeships Framework for Delivery document, published by the government yesterday, says “for 19-24 year olds, the programme will be available only for those who have not yet achieved their first full level two qualification” — equivalent to five GCSEs grade A* to C.

However, the document says “for 16-19 year olds, providers will have flexibility to work with young people who have level two qualifications but not level three.”

The 19 to 24 year-old restriction has come as a surprise to the sector, and Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers told FE Week: “We were pleased that Traineeships were extended to 19 to 24-year-olds but having a different eligibility for different age groups is adding complexity to the system.

“It says in the Framework document providers and employers will have the freedom to work with the individuals within the target group who they feel would benefit most from traineeships.

“Therefore we would have liked the eligibility criteria for both age groups to have been the same. ”

“We really should also avoid any potential for confusion among employers and learners.”

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) spokesperson told FE Week: “BIS and the Department for Education have considered the target groups carefully for the 16-19 and 19-24 age groups. 16-19 year olds with a level two qualification are more likely to need this kind of provision than 19-24 year olds as they will have had less opportunities to gain experience in the labour market.”

She added: “Both departments will keep the traineeships policy under review.”

Traineeships were first proposed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in June last year for 16 to 24-year-olds. But there was disappointment throughout the sector in May when the first framework showed only those aged below 19 would be included in the programme.

The situation changed again however during this year’s Spending Review when the government decided to include the older age bracket when they are rolled out in August, also to include those with learning difficulty assessmentsup to academic age 25.

Yesterday’s revised framework set out what traineeships hoped to achieve. This included work preparation training such as interview preparation and CV writing, training in English and maths, a high-quality work placement between six weeks and five months and training from providers who were rated outstanding or good by education inspectors Ofsted.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said: “Young people in Britain deserve the chance to work and get on in life which is why we’re introducing traineeships to help them get on the first rung of the ladder.

“Employers value real experience which is why I’m delighted that more than 100 businesses have come forward. I now want to urge more employers – no matter what size – to sign up to the programme and make the most of the talents of our young people.

“This is vital for our economy to compete in the global race. Traineeships are just one of the ways this government is making sure young people cross the start line.”