In 2013, the then coalition Government introduced Traineeships — education and training programmes designed to equip 16-24 year olds with the skills and experience they need to get an Apprenticeship or secure sustainable employment.

With a focus on work preparation and (for those who need it) literacy and numeracy training, Traineeships can last from six weeks to six months and are aimed at those not currently in a job and who have little work experience. Delivered by employers in many industries working in partnership with education or training providers, they are open to all young people regardless of their qualifications. Unlike apprentices, trainees are unpaid, although some employers do pay expenses.

So far Traineeship take-up figures have been on the low side, although it is early days for the scheme. In 2013/14, 10,000 young people started a Traineeship; while the year 2014-15 should see that double to around 20,000. Even so, these are still modest numbers, admits Stewart Segal, Chief Executive of The Association of Employment and Learning Providers, a trade association for vocational learning and employment providers in Britain.

Growing programme

“There are three barriers to Traineeships which, if removed, we think would help grow the programme,” says Segal. “The first is that, currently, training providers can only deliver a Traineeship if they have been awarded a minimum of Grade 2 (good) by Ofsted. Yet providers without Ofsted Grade 2 are currently able to deliver Apprenticeship programmes, and probably do so very effectively.

“The second issue concerns the contracting of Traineeships. Of course money is tight these days and there have been budget reductions, but in some instances, demand for Traineeships cannot be met because additional funding is just not available. We think a special case needs to be made to fund Traineeships.

“It takes time for a programme like this to embed itself; but, thirdly, in our view, more focus needs to be put on Traineeships, which are a great opportunity for young people to learn real skills and make proper links with the world of work. We need to make sure that more young people recognise that and see the benefit of Traineeships as a stepping stone to work or an Apprenticeship.”

Awareness raising

This means that some awareness raising needs to be done so that business organisations have confidence in the Traineeship concept. Then, if funding issues can be addressed, says Segal, the main drivers for swelling numbers will be training providers talking to employers and encouraging them to set up Traineeship schemes.

The Government has said that it will be reviewing Traineeships over the summer. So what would Segal like the outcome of that review to be? “We'd like those three barriers to be removed,” he says. “We hope the Government will extend Traineeships to all training providers; make more funding available; introduce additional flexibilities in their delivery; and we need all Government departments to really get behind Traineeships because this is such an important programme.”