Stewart Segal looks at the traineeship programme in light of a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) one-year review.
There has always been a range of programmes designed to help young unemployed or under-employed young people into work.
The names of the programmes will be familiar to many — E2E, Programme-Led Apprenticeships, Access to Apprenticeships and many more.
So when the previous Skills Minister Matt Hancock announced traineeships in a blaze of publicity, it was not surprising that many people were a little sceptical.
The programme design itself was excellent. It followed many of the recommendations that we had made over a number of years.
It was a flexible design enabling the provider to create a programme around the individual. It could contain work preparation, work experience and English and maths and for the first time, the Skills Funding Agency would pay for non-qualification activities such as work experience.
However, the government couldn’t resist launching the programme with restrictions on learner eligibility, complicated funding rules, complex contracting arrangements and no exemptions to benefit rules. It has taken time, but gradually we are seeing some of those restrictions lifted. And we still need to lift the biggest restriction — the government continues to stop many providers delivering the programme, which means many employers cannot provide traineeship opportunities for young people.
Considering the complexity of the programme and the fact that the recent BIS survey was completed at a very early stage, the results are very positive.
Some of the main points made in the report are 67 per cent of trainees were in an apprenticeship, a job or further study and many more were job seeking and work experience was the most useful element of the training.
These results are very encouraging especially as the programme has already had a number of rule changes to respond to the issues AELP and providers had raised.
Since the start of the programme, the benefit rules, and work experience timings have been relaxed while the eligibility rules have been expanded to include level two learners over the age of 19.
The initial restriction of only allowing Ofsted grade one and two-rated providers to deliver traineeships should now be reviewed
The review does not really address the issue of those trainees on benefits and there are still some Job Centres where the benefits rules do restrict the delivery of traineeships.
This means that some JCPs are still not referring young people onto the programme because they are concerned that the programme may be too long.
This is further complicated by the fact that JCPs have their own programmes such as Work Experience or Sector Based Work Academies.
Our view is that traineeships should become the main programme for all young people looking for work.
The final issue is how young people get on the programme. The highest number of trainees came through a provider direct (25 per cent) which was more than the Job Centre (18 per cent). Even fewer came through the National Careers Service or the Apprenticeship Vacancy site. The latter now covers traineeships so we hope this will improve.
The majority of employers reported that referrals came through training providers. It is clear from the review that training providers are the only common link to all of the sources of referrals and they make the link with employers.
This is good evidence to support the fact that we have to increase the numbers of providers delivering the programme.
The initial restriction of only allowing Ofsted grade one and two-rated providers to deliver traineeships should now be reviewed.
Any provider that has evidence they can deliver a high quality traineeship programme should be allowed to deliver.
Many of these providers have existing relationships with employers and have established apprenticeship programmes.
They can make those links and ensure that the programme can be expanded and more employers will see the benefit of providing these important first work opportunities.
With these recommended changes, we have a real opportunity to develop a high quality, flexible programme delivered by quality providers in partnership with employers.