Minister ‘thrilled’ with Traineeship progressions despite steady decline in take-up

The skills minister has hailed the success of traineeships after research revealed 75 per cent of learners move on to work or further study within a year of completing their programme.

It will be a boon for the pre-employment programme, which has been plagued by falling learner numbers and a lack of investment that has frustrated sector bodies.

The policy, which was only launched in 2013, appears to have fallen off the political radar, evidenced by FE Week failing to find any reference to traineeships in any of Anne Milton’s public speeches since she became skills minister two years ago.

Following today’s research report, Milton said she was “thrilled” to see how traineeships are “supporting young people to start their apprenticeship journey, get their first job or go to further study”.

The government also announced today it will introduce a new traineeships achievement rate measure for the academic year 2019/20, which will help the government monitor the programme’s effectiveness.

This is in addition to providing £20 million through the adult education budget for training providers, to encourage more young people aged 19-24 to start a traineeship.

Milton said the achievement rate measure will provide “greater transparency and help young people make informed decisions about their next steps”.

Traineeships are six-month programmes, which were introduced to provide 16 to 24-year-olds with English and maths tuition, work experience and work preparation training.

Today’s report focuses on the cohort of trainees from 2013/14 and draws on surveys with learners, providers and employers; case studies; and analysis of national administrative data.

It did find a marked divide between 16 to 18 and 19 to 23-year-old trainees, with the younger group less likely to begin employment within 12 months of a traineeship – 19 per cent compared with 53 per cent.

And while traineeships increased the probability of both age groups going on to further learning, evidence suggested traineeships reduced the likelihood of a learner progressing to vocational courses above level 2, compared to if they had not participated in a traineeship.

But employers, including global professional services firm Aon, reported how traineeships have helped them to “recruit people from a range of backgrounds leading to more diverse workforces”.

Adrian Johnson, UK Apprenticeship Lead for Aon, told FE Week that since the inception of its “Step Up traineeship scheme” in 2018, the firm has offered 15 traineeships, with nine trainees going on to permanent positions.

“The recruitment of a more diverse group of professionals is key to the future success of Aon and our market as a whole, and we are proud to support these young people in their career development,” he added.

Mark Dawe, the chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said today’s report will help “reinvigorate” traineeships by encouraging young people to take advantage of the programme.

Traineeships are in need to reinvigoration, having seen their starts numbers fall from 24,100 to 17,700 (26 per cent) between 2015/16, before reforms to the apprenticeship system came into force, and 2017/18.

Dawe said last year the government is “so consumed” by apprenticeships and T-levels, there was a danger that traineeships “don’t get a look-in”.

His colleague, AELP policy officer Ceara Roopchand said in May the ESFA’s Qualification Achievement Rates and the negative publicity around companies offering unpaid work experience to trainees had meant “public support for the programme have dwindled dramatically”, to the hindrance of NEET learners, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

An FE Week investigation in 2018 found colleges had delivered fewer than a quarter of traineeships in 2016/17, which was blamed by the Association of Colleges on rigid duration rules.

David Hughes, chief executive of the AoC, today stressed the importance of “stepping stone programmes” like traineeships which allow people to progress to the levels of competence that employers are seeking.

He added that there were many positive outcomes from traineeships, that colleges were helping to deliver.