Colleges in areas with high proportions of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) have been given a cash boost.

The Department for Education (DfE) has revealed that £4.5 million will be given to 25 handpicked colleges in the next two years – from now to September 2013 – to give more 16-19 year olds access to work experience.

Specifically, the available funding will be around £1,000 per learner and a maximum of £80,000 per college for use in this financial year 2011-12. A similar level of funding will be available next year, meaning at least 4,000 youngsters will benefit from the project.

The funding falls in the government’s strategy to improve opportunities for young people – Building Engagement, Building Futures – and will bridge the gap until work experience becomes part of all 16-19 Programmes of Study from 2013.

Its aim is for the colleges to test five models, focusing on removal of cost barriers for employers; investigating challenges faced by small to medium sized enterprises; giving resources to colleges; timing of work placements; and, finally, focussing on supporting LLDD or vulnerable or disadvantaged students.

The DfE said that colleges were selected from an analysis of areas with high percentage of young people NEET, combined with a high proportion of students who are currently doing level 2 and below qualifications.
A spokesperson for the Department said “DfE wants to target these funds towards this group of students.

“We chose the combination to be able to target those in greatest need of work experience, and inevitably this leads to strong concentration on areas with high levels of worklessness, especially urban areas in the north and midlands. There are colleges which will be able to address rural issues – such as Peterborough – and coastal issues such as Portsmouth.

“We expect all 25 colleges to identify what works and help spread this throughout college and training provider network, so when greater funding flexibilities are introduced in 2013 there will be established practice.”

Deborah Ribchester, the Association of Colleges’ (AoC) Senior Policy Manager -14-19 and Curriculum, welcomed the news.

“The lack of availability of work placements is a significant issue for colleges, as is finding necessary time and resources to set up and monitor students doing placements.

“We agree that these are the areas that need attention, and look forward to working with DfE and the colleges involved to identify and address some of the existing barriers to work experience placements,” she said.

Peter Doble, acting principal at Lambeth College, one of the colleges chosen to take part in the new initiative, said: “We are very pleased to be invited to participate in the 16-19 access to work experience project. We anticipate supporting at least 80 students in each of the next two years in different work experience environments.”

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