College turns down 16 to 18 traineeships

A York college that will be running traineeships for 19 to 24-year-olds has said no to putting the programme on for 16 to 18-year-olds because of a lack of government funding, FE Week can reveal.

The 2,000-student Askham Bryan College was rated as good by Ofsted early last year and so can run the government’s flagship youth unemployment scheme.

But bosses at the specialist land-based college told the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) that while it would offer the programme for the 19 to 24 age group, it would be turning away 16 to 18-year-olds because it did “not have the funds”.

It comes after FE Week reported in June how most colleges were missing out on the little extra government cash being dished out for traineeships.

The Department for Education (DfE) transferred £12m to the SFA to pay specific providers, through their 16 to 18 apprenticeship contracts, to run the programmes.

But the ring-fenced funding is available to providers who only hold contracts with the SFA and nothing with the Education Funding Agency.

The vast majority of those who can access the funding is therefore most likely to be independent training providers — and not colleges such as Askham Bryan.

Its principal, Liz Philip, said: “Askham Bryan College would be delighted to run 16 to 18 traineeships but we are heavily over-recruited in 13/14.

“Unfortunately, we therefore do not have the funds to offer these programmes for 12 months but anticipate doing so when the funding lag has caught up with growth in recruitment.

“We are offering traineeships to adults where the funding lag does not apply.”

Nobody from the DfE was available for comment.

However, Junior Shadow Education Minister Tristram Hunt accused the government of “not getting the sector ready” for the scheme.

“This is an extremely disappointing turn of events,” he said.

“This is supposed to be the government’s flagship scheme for getting young people ready for the high quality apprenticeships that we need in order to rebalance the economy and boost our competitiveness, but the government has simply not done enough to get the sector ready.”

The traineeship scheme, which started last month to help young people gain work-related skills and attitudes, can only be offered by providers with an Ofsted grade one or two inspection result.

An agency list of the 756 eligible providers revealed that four colleges turned down the 16 to 18 offer, but said yes to the older option.

However, Dan Shelley, vice principal for enterprise, employment and skills at Sussex Coast College Hastings, said there “should be room” in all eligible providers’ budgets for the programme.

His college has an Ofsted grade three inspection result and so cannot run
traineeships despite the education watchdog giving it a grade two for apprenticeship provision.

He said: “I would urge all colleagues in the sector that are eligible to deliver traineeships to do so, and show how we can expertly implement these exciting bridging opportunities between education and the world of work.

“There should be room in all eligible providers’ budgets for this provision and it would be a real shame if providers did turn down any opportunity to deliver traineeships.”