While providers gear up for the challenge of delivering traineeships, Ofsted has been looking at how to assess the scheme. Matthew Coffey explains what the education watchdog wants to see in action.

We’re all too familiar with the young person who, for whatever reasons, hasn’t excelled at school and runs the risk of joining the NEET ranks all too soon.

As we know, leaving education and training without qualifications and employability skills can lead such young people down a dead end.

So in light of this, I welcome the introduction of the new traineeships being rolled out in August.

These will also be particularly pertinent as we come up to the raising of the participation age to 17 in September.

A national priority for me is improving inspection grades relating to vocational training and the take-up of vocational qualifications.

And we will be grading traineeships when seen on inspection once the scheme is launched.

We’ll be looking for robust data from providers to demonstrate the impact of what they’re doing.

Our priorities reflect our aspirations for learners. It can’t be right that more than one million young people are unemployed. I would expect traineeships to offer a package of skills that helps young people move into apprenticeships.

We’ll be examining whether the calibre of apprenticeships has improved as a result of traineeships”

And Ofsted is very supportive of the proposals for traineeships, including the core elements of the programme.

Providing people with the basic skills to gain fruitful employment is critical. Effective induction, the flexibility to tailor each of the core elements to meet individual needs, ensuring quality, and effectively involving employers, including SMEs, will be essential to the success of the programme. Gaining a mix of employability skills and work experience will be critical to a young person’s success in finding and keeping work.

We know from our report apprenticeships for young people that providers and employers feel the most important attributes of a potential apprentice are the right attitude and commitment to employment. Many had negative views about the ability of some young people to apply for jobs; the poor standard of English and maths and weak punctuality and timekeeping. However, we found that good support was a common key factor in effectively engaging young people.

Employers are struggling to recruit to skilled and semi-skilled vacancies across the country. And our report Ensuring quality in apprenticeships found that just over a third of 500 apprentices didn’t consider themselves to be holding a permanent job during their apprenticeships.

No one can afford to take a disillusioned approach to this new scheme. This is a golden opportunity to improve the life chances of many young people. But we must also be realistic.

Industry needs to have confidence in the people coming out of traineeships and into apprenticeships. What Ofsted looks for in good quality apprenticeships we will also be looking for in traineeships. We’ll be asking to what extent are people being prepared for apprenticeships and employment. Have they had the opportunity to experience work, develop skills and understand the industry they want to work in?

We’ll be examining whether the calibre of apprenticeships has improved as a result of traineeships. And we’ll be looking for creative programmes that provide young people with the skills they require.

Traineeships are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. We’ll want to see how providers invest in those with learning difficulties; supporting them into employment and demonstrating their ability to hold down a job.

Ofsted’s spotlight will be on how many of those on traineeships are successfully moving on to apprenticeships. The challenge for providers and employers will be how to track and evaluate those on traineeships into apprenticeships and beyond.

For the scheme to be successful it will need to demonstrate impact and results. Those young people moving into apprenticeships need to be as successful as the rest; if not more so. If our inspection results can confirm this, then we will have a very effective means of improving life prospects for many.

Matthew Coffey, Ofsted director of learning and skills

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