These little-known providers could drive apprenticeships success

Most of the sector seems unaware of Flexi-Job Apprenticeship Agencies – and yet the model might be just what the qualifications need

Most of the sector seems unaware of Flexi-Job Apprenticeship Agencies – and yet the model might be just what the qualifications need

4 May 2024, 5:00

Following last month’s St Martin’s Group report on apprenticeship outcomes and destinations, it’s clear to me that a little-known part of the system could in fact be key to improving it.  

The report found that wrap-around support, extra care and attention and all-round employer involvement were lacking – all things which Flexi-Job Apprenticeship Agencies (FJAAs) specifically provide. 

FJAAs are organisations that recruit and employ apprentices directly, place them with host businesses and offer additional support for the duration of their apprenticeship. I believe their role is more crucial than ever.  

A recent article by Mesma CEO, Lou Doyle responding to the report in these pages questioned the current model of putting employers ‘in the driving seat’ of apprenticeships. They make better co-pilots, she argued, and providers should be at the wheel. 

I agree, but the barrier is that many independent  providers, colleges, and employers simply don’t have the time and resource to commit to this at the level that is required. FJAAs do, and they do so by design. A good FJAA will always do all that they can to support the apprentices’ needs, no matter the obstacle. It is their sole purpose. 

This support extends to periods when a change of host employer is required, as the flexi-job agency model recognises that the short-term nature of some roles will require this. In fact, we are increasingly being asked to support individuals who find themselves without an employer part-way through their apprenticeship. In other words, what we do is vital in supporting apprentices to completion.  

Of course, this doesn’t come without a price. At the moment, most FJAAs fund their work only by charging the host employers they serve.  Some have had the benefit of short-term funding from a variety of sources to grow and add value, but a clear barrier is that most of the sector doesn’t know we exist, let alone what we do. 

TrAC is the lead partner in FutureIN, a public-private sector partnership that was awarded the Construction News Workforce Awards Apprenticeship Initiative of the Year for 2023.

What we do is vital in supporting apprentices to completion  

FutureIN supports young people at risk of homelessness in Greater Cambridge into jobs and apprenticeships in the construction industry.  

We work with property developers, building contractors, the Department for Work and Pensions and local training providers to create jobs and apprenticeship opportunities which are then specifically allocated to FutureIN candidates.  

TrAC employs all FutureIN recruits and places them within its partnership businesses, initially for a pre-apprenticeship period of up to six months before moving them onto an apprenticeship pathway.  

All programme participants receive wrap-around pastoral support and care from their TrAC account manager, who also supports the host company staff where required. We arrange and coordinate the training and reviews, maintaining a proactive approach and nipping any emerging issues in the bud.   

The number of partnership organisations stands at 15, and it is growing. In addition to the income from host company placements, we have also been successful in obtaining grants from charities and local authority partners, as well as securing invaluable long-term support from the Department for Work and Pensions.  

All of these funders understand that the wrap-around support we provide can, by necessity, be very intensive. But more than that, they value that work because they know retention and completion matters – not to meet a target, but for the benefit of all concerned.    

Helping this cohort of young people can have significant impact and benefit across our society and communities, as well as mitigating the long-term cost to the state. Seventeen per cent of young people leaving care go on to make a homeless application. Care leavers make up 25 per cent of the adult homeless population, and almost 25 per cent of the adult prison population. Nearly 50 per cent of under 21s in contact with the criminal justice system have spent time in care. 

These are the people we are reaching and in whose lives’ we are making a positive difference. And if the model works for them, then there’s no reason it couldn’t work to improve engagement for all those who require more support to succeed.  

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