The government has admitted it did not ask providers to keep a record of whether traineeships resulted in learners moving into a job or apprenticeship last year.
An FE Week freedom of information request to the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) has uncovered that it was not tracking learner progression for the first year of the government’s flagship youth unemployment programme.
It is only from this academic year that the SFA requires traineeship providers to record outcomes such as progression into work as part of the individualised learning record returns.
But the revelation that there is no data with which to judge the progression success of last year’s traineeships has triggered fierce criticism from Liberal Democrat Lady Sharp (pictured), an economist who is the party’s spokesperson on FE in the Lords.
She said the SFA was “not living up to its own standards”, and called for answers about why the information was not collected in the first year.
Lady Sharp, who chaired the 2011 Colleges in their Communities Inquiry that produced the Innovation Code aimed at helping colleges run employer-responsive courses, said: “Given the emphasis on outcomes now required of schools, colleges and universities, I am amazed that since the whole purpose of traineeships is to enable the young person to go on to a job or, preferably, an apprenticeship, the SFA seem to be making no effort to measure this.
“Is this a matter of not practising what they preach? KPIs imposed by the SFA on the college sector require precisely this information — why are they not living up to their own standards?”
Earlier this year, former Skills Minister Matthew Hancock announced that funding for traineeships could be dependent on progression into employment or further training from 2015/16.
And the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) launched a consultation on the plans in June. The consultation closed in mid-August and the results will be published this autumn.
Traineeships, which were designed to help learners progress into work or further training, got off to a slow start, with an SFA FoI response in May showing that just 4,160 online applications had been made for 3,480 traineeship vacancies in the eight months since the programme’s launch in August last year.
More recent data has revealed that 7,400 traineeships starts were recorded in the first three quarters of 2013/14, but the SFA, in response to the FE Week FoI request, refused to reveal how many had been completed on the grounds that it intended to publish the information at a later date.
An SFA spokesperson said: “We don’t currently hold specific data on progression into work for traineeships, but subject to meeting national statistical standards, traineeship progression data will be published in future Statistical First Releases.”