Traineeships, the government’s new pre-Apprenticeship scheme, launched last month, with the aim of helping young people to boost their skills, confidence and ultimately find that elusive first Apprenticeship placement or job.
The Traineeship programme is aimed at 16 to 24-year-olds and a Traineeship will last for a period of six months, consisting of work experience, English and maths education, along with job preparation guidance, such as CV-writing tips and advice on how to prepare for an interview.
The scheme responds to feedback from business leaders about poor skill levels among prospective employees.
It is hoped that Traineeships will bridge the gap between school and the workplace, providing a greater supply of high-quality candidates to meet the high standards of employers in the competitive jobs market. Traineeships will also fit within broader study programmes for 16 to 19-year-olds.
There are currently 900,000 young people in the UK classified as NEET (not in education, employment or training). In a recent poll of 1,000 NEETs conducted by the University and College Union, it was revealed that a third of these young people had experienced depression, 40 per cent feel that they are not part of society, while 36 per cent believe they will never have a chance of getting a job. They tell a story – it is time for change and it is time to offer these teenagers a pathway to a career and a future. It is my hope that Traineeships will go some way to achieving this by giving young people a head-start and a positive mind-set to ensure they make the most of opportunities that come their way.
Young people need better access to broader careers advice from a young age and this must begin at school. They need to receive realistic and practical guidance, including costs and likely outcomes, so they can choose the right direction for them. Improving the visibility of vocational training within schools is a key part of this.
So what do schools need to know about Traineeships? The government now requires young people to continue in education or training until the end of the academic year in which they turn 17, and from 2015 learners are not able to leave until their 18th birthday.
Raising the participation age does not mean that 16 and 17-year-olds must stay in school or college education full-time before heading to university, they also have the option of starting a Traineeship or Apprenticeship. With this in mind, it is important for schools to identify learners who would be well-suited to this particular training route.
Traineeships are most suitable to learners who are more likely to follow a vocational than academic route but are not quite ready to start an Apprenticeship or employment (working below Level 2) and need a little extra help to boost their skills.
A central aspect of Traineeships will be the work placement, which will last between six weeks and five months. The Traineeship framework requires work experience to be “high-quality” and “meaningful”.
One way that schools can support learners’ work experience is by underpinning the placements with qualifications which will accredit the core, transferable skills that they learn within the workplace.
Another key part is English and maths and it might be useful to explore alternative options to GCSEs. There are many short qualifications in maths and English available which offer short, bite-sized chunks of learning designed to help the learner “fill the gaps” in their skills, knowledge and understanding. With Traineeships it has never been more important to tailor learning programmes to individual need.
There is a lot of positive feeling in the sector about the potential of Traineeships to help young people move onto the next stage in their lives – there are similar schemes run across Europe to great effect.
David Grailey is chief executive of awarding organisation NCFE.