The government has said traineeships were “off to a good start” as it revealed 3,300 starts in  six months.

It is the first time the number of starts on the government’s new flagship youth unemployment programme has been published and comes just over a week after official figures showed 912,000 young people aged 16 to 24 were unemployed in November last year to January.

Traineeships, which combine a work experience placement with maths, English and employability training for 16 to 24-year-olds, were to designed help those looking for a job or apprenticeship, but who lack experience and qualifications.

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesperson told FE Week: “Provisional data published today show that traineeships are off to a good start with young people reaping the benefits.”

The note which accompanied the data, which came as part of today’s Statistical First Release, warned the 3,300 figure for traineeship starts, from August last year to January, did “not provide a full picture”.

“Providers may not have reported all their information relating to this period and it is not possible to determine how incomplete the information is,” the statement said.

It added: “All new programmes take time to develop over their first year. In addition, new reporting systems typically present issues in terms of completeness and accuracy as the sector adjusts to new funding and reporting rules.

“Analysis of ILR data shows that there is more likely to be a significant undercount for traineeships compared to other provision.”

The statement added that it could not provide breakdowns by age or provider because they were “likely to present unreliable and misleading comparisons”.

Traineeship take-up was dubbed “disappointing” by Ofsted FE and skills director Matthew Coffey at the Association of Colleges (AoC) annual conference in November, although the government has said it had not set a target for the programme.

However, Keith Smith, the Skills Funding Agency’s executive director for funding and programmes, also said at the AoC conference that “colleges have indicated they will deliver around 57 per cent of projected 19 to 23 traineeship starts for 2013/14”. The agency later said Mr Smith had given out a figure that was “not official” and could not supply the numbers behind his claim.

See edition 98 of FE Week, dated Monday, March 31, for more.