Youth Unemployment and the Future Jobs Fund - Work and Pensions Committee Contents

9  Apprenticeships

Government proposals on apprenticeships

114.  DWP have highlighted that apprenticeships could form one component of a programme of tailored support for young unemployed people, to help them into sustainable employment.[143] The 2010 Spending Review stated that the Government planned to increase funding "by £250 million a year by 2014-15 on new adult apprenticeships, compared with the previous Government's level of spending".[144] Previously, in September 2010, the Government had announced that it would allocate an additional £150 million to create 50,000 additional adult apprenticeships in 2010-11.

115.  Despite the current economic conditions, the Minister and Claire Burton, Head of the joint Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Department for Education Apprenticeships Unit, were confident that employers would be willing and able to deliver the increased number of apprenticeship places. They indicated that the allocation of 50,000 places for 2010-11 is likely to be fully taken up by employers, and pointed out that in the previous two years the Government had had to cap the number of places available to employers because the demand exceeded the funding available for places.[145]

116.  There was support for the development of more apprenticeship places from a number of witnesses. The CBI, for example, argued that employer-led apprenticeships provide sustainable jobs, structured pathways for career development and high wages. Their figures show that around 90% of apprentices find employment (or self employment) immediately after their training ends.[146]

Suitability of unemployed young people for apprenticeships

117.  A number of witnesses emphasised the importance of the apprenticeships system including some provision for young people facing significant obstacles to the employment market. Centrepoint told us that, while it supported the proposal to fund more apprenticeships, the Government should ensure that they are made available to vulnerable young people and that they do not simply "cream off the more able young people".[147] The Association of Learning Providers were similarly concerned that apprenticeships may not reach the same clients that the FJF was intended for—young people who were previously unable or unwilling to join apprenticeship programmes.[148]

118.  In his oral evidence, Professor Paul Gregg said that many young people who are facing long-term unemployment, the group that the FJF was aimed at, do not have the necessary qualifications to get onto the higher level (level 3) apprenticeships. He believed that lower level apprenticeships were less meaningful in terms of employment opportunities and wages.[149]

119.  We welcome the increased funding for and increased number of apprenticeships and expect the Government to ensure that, where appropriate, these opportunities are made available to unemployed young people previously targeted by the FJF.

120.   We recommend that, in response to this Report, the Government provides us with statistics on:

  • the number of apprenticeship starts planned for January to June 2011 compared with the corresponding period in 2010; and
  • the number of these apprenticeships expected to be taken up by 18-24 year olds who were previously unemployed for six months or more.

121.   We are concerned that apprenticeships may not be the most suitable route into employment for those young people at the highest risk of long-term unemployment. These young people may have left school with no qualifications, have no experience of work, or have difficult family circumstances, and in some cases they may not be ready to start an apprenticeship. We are keen to ensure that alternative provision (for example, personal support, training and work opportunities) should be available to help those who are not ready for an apprenticeship.

Links between the Work Programme and apprenticeships

122.  The Minister told us that one of the roles of the Work Programme would be to prepare and encourage young people to take up opportunities such as apprenticeships:

A central task of the Work Programme providers, as I see it, is to ensure that they actually support, motivate, encourage and provide the right degree of direction—matching an individual to opportunity and so forth—actually to get that young person into an apprenticeship.[150]

123.  Groundwork UK offered a positive example of the way in which the FJF had complemented apprenticeships. In partnership with British Gas, they trialled using FJF posts as a pre-apprenticeship period (for example in teams of loft insulation or cavity wall technicians). Where young people completed the FJF post, there were opportunities for them to undertake a full apprenticeship with British Gas. Groundwork UK believed that there should be more opportunities to convert successful FJF posts into apprenticeships and that the Work Programme might consider how FJF-style posts could help young unemployed people gain apprenticeships.[151]

124.  Tracy Fishwick echoed this view, commenting that even as the FJF programme moves to its latter stages it may be possible to link FJF jobs to apprenticeships "in a structured way, so that people who start on the Future Jobs Fund move into apprenticeships and do not dip inbetween".[152] This reflects the concern that once some young people finish their FJF post, there will be no opportunities or support for them, and they may fall back into unemployment.

125.  The DWP and Work Programme providers should consider how to attract those furthest from the labour market to apprenticeships and how to encourage employers to take on such individuals as apprentices. We recommend that the Government looks closely at the lessons to be learned from the Future Jobs Fund in terms of the most effective ways to prepare such individuals for apprenticeships.

143   Ev 49 Back

144   HM Treasury, Spending Review 2010, Cm 7942, October 2010, p 51 Back

145   Q 162 Back

146   Ev 46 Back

147   Ev w158 Back

148   Ev w184 Back

149   Q 66 Back

150   Q 166  Back

151   Ev 57 Back

152   Q 69  Back

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