The deputy prime minister has revealed plans for a new pre-apprenticeship scheme that he called “traineeships”.
Nick Clegg, speaking at an event held by the Confederation of British Industry on youth unemployment, said the scheme would provide support for people leaving school with minimal work experience or qualifications.
It was a package of training and work experience to allow young people “to get the basic, necessary skills, with a recognised qualification at the end of it – an extra rung on the ladder to get you on your way to an apprenticeship or job”.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) told FE Week the scheme would be used to tackle “unacceptably high” levels of youth unemployment.
“We are already helping young people improve their skills through pre-employment training, by expanding the apprenticeships programme, introducing the access to apprenticeships scheme and by protecting funding for basic and intermediate learning for 19 to 24 year-olds,” a BIS spokesperson said.
“As part of that continuing work, we are looking at developing a new ‘traineeship’, an extended package of training and work experience that will enable young people to get the skills that they need to secure a place with an employer.”
Unionlearn warned that the scheme would need to be properly assessed to make sure employers did not exploit young people as cheap labour.
“Traineeships should be paid unless they are for a clearly limited period of work experience,” a spokesperson told FE Week.
“They must also not be allowed to replace real jobs and existing work. The focus must be on developing the skills of the learner and all traineeships should lead to an apprenticeship, where possible.”
It is unclear whether the traineeship scheme will replace access to apprenticeships, the current programme designed to help young people aged 16 to 24 on to an apprenticeship.
David Harbourne, director of policy and research at the Edge Foundation, said: “What Mr Clegg is talking about is a programme below level 2; a pre-apprenticeship programme.
“This obviously isn’t a new idea. But one problem with all such programmes is that some of the people most likely to benefit live chaotic lives.
“This can lead to non-completion rates that are higher than politicians and their civil servants are prepared to accept, especially if there is a strict time limit for completing the programme.”
The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) have long campaigned for a form of preparatory training for apprentices.
“The need for it has grown more urgent over recent months because the access to apprenticeships programme has only been moderately successful and because employers are now raising the bar for full apprenticeship entry requirements,” an AELP spokesperson told FE Week.