Young benefits claimants who can’t find work will be forced onto apprenticeships or traineeships

The government’s new Earn or Learn Taskforce will oversee plans to force young benefits claimants onto apprenticeships or traineeships if they do not find a job or acceptable unpaid work.

The “troubleshooter” taskforce was launched earlier this summer to track government progress on its target for 3m apprenticeship starts by next parliament, as reported by FE Week on June 3.

The Cabinet Office announced today that the taskforce, made up of eight MPs including Education Secretary Nicky Morgan (pictured right)NICKY-MORGAN-MP-web, Skills Minister Nick Boles (pictured below left)) and his predecessor Matthew Hancock (pictured above), who is the Cabinet Office Minister and also chairs the group, will implement plans to force unemployed 18 to 21-year-olds to start an apprenticeship, traineeship, or a paid or unpaid job.

Nick-BolesThe young claimants, she added, will “lose benefits” if they do not comply from April 2017.

But David Corke, director of education and skills policy at the Association of Colleges, cast doubt on whether this would work in practice, insisting that “alternative technical and professional qualifications [in addition to apprenticeships and traineeships] must [also] be available to help these young people back into work or training”.

Mr Corke (pictured right) was also lukewarm in his backing for another measure that the Cabinet Office said today would be implemented by Mr David-Corke-cutoutwp
Hancock’s taskforce — which will involve a new “boot camp” to get claimant’s work-ready within six months.

The Cabinet Office spokesperson said that this will involve 18 to 21-year-olds starting on an intensive activity programme “within the first three weeks of claiming out-of-work benefit”.

“The intensive curriculum includes practicing job applications and interview techniques as well as extensive job search, and is expected to take 71 hours over the first three weeks of the claim,” she added.

“A dedicated work coach will work with jobseekers and continuously review what was achieved during the initial three week work course.”

But Mr Corke said: “A ‘boot camp’ approach may not necessarily be the best way to encourage young people back into education or training which could lead them to a job.

“Colleges already work closely with Jobcentre Plus to ensure that education and training is available for young people who need or want it.”

An Association of Employment and Learning Providers spokesperson said: “We have [already] been pressing [the government] for training providers to be involved earlier in the process to assess [Jobcentre Plus] clients’ barriers to the jobs market and what support they may need.”

Mr Hancock said: “By working across government to make sure that every young person is in work or training, by opening up 3m more apprenticeships, expanding traineeships, and making sure that a life on benefits is simply not an option, we want to end rolling welfare dependency for good, so welfare dependency is no longer passed down the generations.”

He added: “We are absolutely committed to ending long-term youth unemployment and building a country for workers, where nobody is defined by birth and everyone can achieve their potential.”

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  1. Mike Motley

    As an Apprenticeship provider, we know from experience that those who have been forced onto Apprenticeships (by their employer) are more at risk in terms of retention and therefore less likely to achieve. If young claimants are forced into an Apprenticeship by the government then it may contribute to the 3 million starts target but may put at risk the retention and therefore achievement of apprentices. It will also be doubly difficult to engage employers to take on less than motivated learners. It is hard enough to engage as it is, with only 14% of employers currently engaged with Apprenticeship programmes. We need willing and motivated apprentices to fill the valuable few vacancies not those who have been forced or mandated through the benefits system.

  2. I adore news like this… Because it makes finding an apprenticeship position sound like an easy thing to do.

    The reality is that not enough employers are willing to employ an apprentice. Applicant to recruitment ratios are 150:1 where I am. And these are students who really want to study an apprenticeship and are on the phone 6hrs a day cold-calling employers themselves.

    Additionally what training provider in their right mind would take on a large number of apprentices who have been ‘forced onto an apprenticeship’, given the funding cuts to the sector and the severe consequences of falling success rates in the eyes of Ofsted.

    Encourage and they will succeed, force and they will fight back, or drop out at a time when something better comes along.

    This ‘cancer’ of youth unemployment cannot so simply be resolved, all this will do is move the problem elsewhere. But it will look good in the eyes of the average Daily Mail reader.

  3. Peter Cobrin

    Judging from the performance of the new contractor in Hastings for the New Enterprise Allowance scheme — designed to support the unemployed into meaningful self-employment, this is a recipe for disaster. Look at the track record of Welfare to Work contractors. Another triumph for Hancock’s Half Hour — comedy, facre or tragegy?

  4. The number of colleges and providers who have phoned me up to point me in the direction of this piece was in double figures this morning. It just shows you how civil servants badly advise politicians. The latter are attracted by sound bites that they think will make them sound radical, the former are then too frightened to tell ministers that their ideas will not work for unbelievably obvious reasons (such as employers wanting young people who want to work in an industry, who will show up every day on time and after an investment of time, effort and money will become long term employees. If you are a civil servant reading this comment try looking at the Ofsted survey reports on apprenticeships over the past five years and you will see that your suggested actions will cause a fall in apprenticeship success rates and damage the brand and likelihood that more employers will engage apprentices. It is suggesting what one could only categorize as ‘bad practice’ in recruiting apprentices. The last para quoting Matthew Hancock is a sentiment most of us went into FE to try and make happen, more focus on young people and their career choices at 14 is much more likely to have an impact on reducing NEETS