Ofsted directors’ traineeship drop-out fears
Lorna Fitzjohn

Lorna Fitzjohn

Too many learners are dropping out of traineeships, Ofsted FE and skills director Lorna Fitzjohn (pictured) has warned.

Ms Fitzjohn raised concerns about drop-out rates among learners on the government’s flagship youth unemployment programme in an exclusive interview with FE Week.

The education watchdog was unable to reveal any figures to back up the concerns, but the June Statistical First Release showed there had been around 7,400 traineeship starts from August last year to April.

It comes after a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) said just 200 out of 459 eligible training providers who said they would deliver traineeships had recorded starts as of June this year.

She said: “Traineeships do offer something important for young people who are perhaps not quite ready for an apprenticeship who need something else to take them on to apprenticeships.

“It’s very disappointing that over half of the providers who are able to offer them have not taken up that opportunity.

“We are also beginning to see quite high drop-out rates from traineeships programmes, people are not staying on them, because they’re not the right thing for them, so I do think the programmes themselves need closely looking at to make sure they are what a young person needs.”

A spokesperson for the education watchdog said Ms Fitzjohn’s traineeship drop-out concerns were based on the study programmes report which came out earlier his month

“We don’t mention specific figures, but during our sampling of providers for the report we noted that ‘the early drop-out rate was high’ for traineeships,” he said.

But it is not the first time concerns over the traineeship programme have been aired without the backing of official statistics. Last November, interim chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) Keith Smith, who was the SFA executive director for funding and programmes at the time, said colleges would deliver 57 per cent of projected 19 to 23 traineeships, while then-Ofsted FE and skills director Matthew Coffey described recruitment to the scheme as “disappointing”.

Neither the SFA, which said Mr Smith’s figures were unofficial, nor Ofsted were able to give out figures at the time.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said: “Traineeships are useful qualifications that are focused on giving young people the skills and vital experience needed to compete successfully for an apprenticeship or other job.”

She added: “BIS and the Department for Education published a revised Framework for Delivery for 2014/15 — giving providers improved guidance on the delivery of the programme following feedback from those involved.

“We expect this new framework to support providers in developing their programmes based on their own experience. We also encourage them to become involved in the Education and Training Foundation’s traineeship support staff programme, which will help them share best practice.”