Official figures showing fewer than two applications for each traineeship vacancy have sparked concern about a “general lack of awareness” of the government’s new flagship youth unemployment scheme.

A freedom of information (FOI) request from FE Week showed just 4,160 online applications were made for 3,480 traineeship vacancies in the eight months since the programme’s launch in August last year.

And with the system only showing the number of applications — rather than applicants — it’s likely the headcount was actually lower because one person could have made more than one application.

A spokesperson for the Association of Employment and Learning Providers said: “A general lack of awareness about traineeships is part of the issue, which is why in tandem with the new statutory guidance for schools on careers advice, it’s important that more local employers and providers can get into schools to explain the benefits of the new programme.”

The traineeship figures are overshadowed by those of apprenticeships, which attracted more than 12 applications per vacancy between August and the end of October last year, according to the most recently figures from the National Apprenticeship Service.

Its report showed 461,530 applications were made online for apprenticeships during this period — which compared to 36,700 vacancies (according to the same FOI response from the Skills Funding Agency).

Teresa Frith, senior skills policy manager for the Association of Colleges, said apprenticeships were bound to attract
more applications as they were more established.

But, she said: “There has been no direct marketing [for traineeships] to potential trainees or their parents or influencers, and it may well be that the expectation of the student is that they go directly onto an apprenticeship rather than a pre-cursor programme.”

The news on applications comes six weeks after FE Week reported that there were just 3,300 traineeship starts in the six months following the scheme’s launch.

However, Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said this month that he hoped 5,000 new traineeships would be created through the employer ownership pilot scheme.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “Many traineeship providers are already using the apprenticeships vacancies service to reach young people.

“However, it is not compulsory for providers or learners to use the system for traineeships, so these figures are only a part of the wider positive picture.

“Some providers will choose other routes to advertise places and some applicants will be referred directly, for example by Job Centres.”