Traineeships flop… AGAIN: Starts target missed by two thirds in 2021/22

Another huge underspend is likely to be handed back to Treasury

Another huge underspend is likely to be handed back to Treasury

24 Nov 2022, 11:15

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The government missed its target of 43,000 traineeships by almost two thirds last year, new data has revealed.

Just 15,500 starts were recorded in 2021/22 – 36 per cent of the goal.

The figures, published by the Department for Education this morning, show that uptake on the pre-employment programme has even begun to decline despite huge investment from the Treasury.

The number of starts achieved last year was 11 per cent down on the 17,400 recorded in 2020/21.

Across both years then-chancellor Rishi Sunak pumped an additional £237 million into traineeships. This was made up of £111 million to “triple” the number of starts in 2020/21 – a target that was missed by half – and an extra £126 million in 2021/22.

Officials offered employers a £1,000 incentive in both years for each trainee they took on, and also ran a procurement to expand the traineeship provider market in an effort to ramp up starts.

Earlier this year FE Week revealed that more than half – £65 million – of the 2020/21 traineeships budget had to be handed back to the Treasury. A bigger underspend is now expected for 2021/22.

Introduced as a flagship pre-employability programme in 2013, traineeships are eligible for 16 to 24-year-olds and training providers are funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency to deliver pre-employment training and arrange unpaid work placements from six weeks to one year, although most last for less than six months.

But traineeship starts have been on a rapid decline, from a high of 24,100 in 2015/16 down to just 12,100 in 2019/20.

Ministers saw traineeships as a good route to help get young people back into training and work after the Covid-19 pandemic and decided to back the programme with more funding.

Officials have made numerous pleas with traineeship providers to rapidly boost their recruitment over the past two years.

But providers have often warned that the lack of learner incentive means that traineeships are currently limited to those willing and able to take on a placement without getting paid.

Others have other government programmes that do offer payment, like Kickstart and apprenticeships, displaced traineeships.

Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Jane Hickie said: “It’s important to recognise that the additional financial support for traineeships was provided against a backdrop of an expected surge in pandemic related unemployment, which thankfully was not bad as expected. There is no doubt though that Kickstart – with its financial incentive for the young person – made traineeships considerably less attractive for the individual. 

“Whilst demand for traineeships from employers remains strong, the lack of financial support for trainees themselves remains critical – AELP believe that the traineeship underspend should be used to support individual through a training allowance on what is still a very effective programme.”

Today’s data shows that of the 17,400 traineeships started in the 2020/21 academic year, three quarters completed their programme and a fifth moved onto an apprenticeship.

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