Apprenticeships and traineeships for 16 to 19 year olds - Education Contents

4  Engaging young people

Current levels of engagement

50. Professor Alison Fuller told us:

    The rather stubborn figure that remains is about 6% of 16-to-19s will at some point start a Government supported apprenticeship. It is important to have that context; it is very small and it has not gone up. It remains a challenge to increase it.[64]

51. One factor that hinders young people when competing with older applicants is that some employers may (in some cases quite correctly) see young people as being unprepared for the workplace. The CBI suggested to us that "a lack of work readiness and the failure of our education system to equip young people with the skills that employers value are two major contributors to youth unemployment".[65] Ensuring that schools provide good quality careers advice and prepare young people for the workplace effectively is key to enabling them to take advantage of apprenticeships.

School attitudes towards apprenticeships

52. Assessment of school performance is still seen by some as limited to the school's GCSE or A-level results. Newham College of Further Education reported that:

    The promotion of year seven entry places to parents within schools only focuses on the university progression of their year 13 pupils. Progression onto apprenticeships or work is never promoted.[66]

53. More widely, newspaper coverage of school performance is limited to covering GCSE and A-level results data. Newspapers use data from the DfE to provide a school-by-school breakdown of performance data for 16-18 year olds that is limited to A-level results only.[67] This may encourage schools to favour traditional, academic routes rather than vocational options.

54. The Sutton Trust conducted a survey in 2014 analysing, among other things, teachers' views of apprenticeships. It found that 65% of teachers would rarely or never advise a student to take an apprenticeship if they had the grades for university.[68]

Careers advice

55. In January 2013 we published our report into careers guidance for young people, which argued for greater oversight of schools to encourage them to provide good quality careers advice.[69] Following that report, in April 2014 the Government published new guidance for the 2014/15 academic year, which included suggestions for what might constitute good careers guidance while allowing for variation in pupils' needs. Looking at apprenticeships, the guidance asks:

    Do pupils have access to impartial information and advice on a broad range of options to include apprenticeships, entrepreneurialism and vocational routes alongside A-levels and university, to support informed decisions at key transition points?[70]

56. The Government also accepted our recommendation that the National Careers Service should play a greater role in capacity building and brokering relationships between schools and employers.[71]

57. We received a wide range of evidence to this inquiry that there has been no measurable improvement in the quality of careers advice since the publication of our previous report. Lorna Fitzjohn, Ofsted's National Director for Further Education and Skills, told us that their 2013 review of careers advice in schools found that "only one in five schools was offering the quality of careers advice and guidance at a good level".[72] In January 2015 the Secretary of State told us that she had "no reason to dispute that 80% figure from 2013".[73]

58. Some examples of good practice do exist. Katerina Rudiger, Head of Skills and Policy Campaigns at the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, told us about their support for the Inspiring the Future Programme, where employers volunteer to provide careers talks to schools.[74] Lorna Fitzjohn summarised a range of good initiatives that Ofsted had looked at:

    There are some very good enterprise programmes about. We have had a close look at those, with people involved in business enterprise, often with local companies that come in and do that, which gives them some experience within the school setting of running a business. We have seen examples where employers come in and do some interviewing. You have got the usual talks that people might do and we see opportunity to shadow someone at work. We see employers involved as governors, which then has a knock-on effect down to more work experience. There is a wide range of things that can be done so that there is that line of sight to work.[75]

These individual cases demonstrate that good quality careers advice should be achievable in every school, but clearly more needs to be done to encourage all schools to reach this level.

School outcomes

59. Since summer 2014 pupils have been required to stay in some form of education or work-based learning until they are 18.[76] New Economy Manchester suggested to us that raising the participation age may deter people from exploring vocational options, due to confusion about what is required:

    The policy of Raising the Participation Age reinforces an existing social norm of staying longer in formal education (the RPA policy may have been misinterpreted by some as referring to staying in formal education rather than 'in learning' which includes apprenticeships).[77]

60. City and Guilds went further, arguing that there could be a perverse incentive for schools to keep young people in traditional education who would be better off in an apprenticeship—raising the participation age was seen as encouraging schools and colleges to retain young people in order to ensure that the school or college continued to receive funding from Government.[78]

61. Good quality destination data, which tracks labour market outcomes for pupils over time, would incentivise schools to seek the best possible outcomes for their students. The Government has made improvements to the range of destination data available, making information about vocational performance available online as part of the performance tables provided by the DfE,[79] as well as publishing more detailed destination data annually as part of a statistical release.[80] But there is still more to be done.

The role of Ofsted

62. The DfE told us that Ofsted had committed to giving careers advice a higher profile in school inspections.[81] When discussing this issue Lorna Fitzjohn reiterated that the quality of careers advice was a priority in inspections but conceded that Ofsted's reduced resources meant that there would be fewer inspections.[82] The Minister suggested to us that he would welcome schools being marked down a grade in Ofsted inspections where a school "completely fails to provide independent advice and guidance or to give the local FE college or apprenticeship provider an opportunity to come in and talk about what they do".[83] This renewed focus should be encouraged, but it is clear that Ofsted alone cannot ensure that schools provide good quality careers advice.

63. In our previous report we suggested that schools should publish a careers plan to provide transparency about what the school would offer in terms of careers guidance and work towards the Quality in Careers standard to incentivise schools to provide good quality careers advice.[84] The Government did not accept our recommendations, arguing that mandating the approach to careers would run counter to the aim of reducing bureaucracy.[85] We welcome the Government's recent announcement that it will consider updating its guidance on careers advice to include information about the Quality in Careers standard[86] but we remain convinced that further action is needed as the needs of young people and the incentives for schools are not aligned. Changing the incentives for schools remains the greatest challenge in improving careers advice, and thereby ensuring that young people receive the information they need on apprenticeships and the benefits they can bring.

Work experience

64. As we set out at the beginning of the chapter, employers often cite a lack of work-readiness as a reason not to employ a younger person. Effective work experience is a key part of preparing young people for the workplace. Katerina Rudiger from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development told us:

    Lack of work experience is the one thing that really disadvantages young people in the labour market, plus work experience is quite popular amongst employers actually. Over half of employers offer work experience and they are quite keen to offer high-quality work experience.[87]

65. James Whelan told us that simply having a two week block where every student goes off on a placement of varying quality does not suit all young people, schools, or employers.[88] Professor Alison Fuller told us that "A hallmark of the highest quality vocational education programmes is mandatory work placements that are structured as part of the curriculum".[89] She went on to describe the Young Apprenticeship programme, which ran from 2004 to 2010:

    The strong feature of them was that it was not a case of closing down options for those 14 to 16-year-olds who were on that programme because they had to do seven GCSEs as well. It was an enhanced 14-to-16 programme, and the evidence is that the graduates from that programme were going in all sorts of different directions: some into pure A-levels; some into Level 3 vocational full time; and some into apprenticeships. It did not seem to be closing doors, and it did seem to be providing a vehicle for developing very good employer/school relationships.[90]

David Sims from the National Foundation for Educational Research said that they had undertaken a national evaluation that supported this view.[91] The scheme was phased out on grounds of cost, but it illustrates how work experience can be delivered in a more effective way than the traditional week or two-week block.

66. In our previous report, responding to widespread criticism of the Government's decision to remove the statutory duty to provide work experience, we recommended that schools be required to provide work-related learning.[92] Schools still require more encouragement to provide proper work-preparation for their pupils.

Conclusions and recommendations

67. Misunderstanding by schools of the content, progression opportunities and benefits of apprenticeships is compounded by a cultural preference for the academic over the vocational and by incentives to fill sixth form places rather than offer alternatives to young people.

68. Careers advice in schools continues to be inadequate for most young people. We welcome the collection of destination data by the Government and the opportunity this provides to see what happens to pupils when they leave schools and colleges. There is little evidence, however, that this has sufficiently altered incentives for schools.

69. We recommend that the Government urgently review the incentives for schools to provide good quality careers advice and recognise that the mantra of "trusting schools" does not work when the interests of schools and young people are not aligned.

70. We welcome the increased emphasis that Ofsted is putting on careers advice when inspecting schools, but agree with Ofsted that their oversight alone provides insufficient incentive for schools to change.

71. We recommend that the Government require schools to publish a careers plan and work towards the Quality in Careers standard.

72. The Government should encourage schools to incorporate work experience into the 14-16 curriculum.

73. The Young Apprenticeships scheme, which provided 14 to 16 year-olds with a credible vocational option that combined academic study with regular work-based experience, was considered effective at delivering good quality work experience. We recommend that the Government look at reviving this programme or developing a model that replicates its core academic and work-based components for this age group.

64   Q12 Back

65   CBI (AAT0078) para 23 Back

66   Newham College of Further Education () para 30 Back

67   Daily Telegraph, A-level school league tables 2013, 23 January 2014; the Guardian, A-level results 2014 database, 14 August 2014 Back

68   Sutton Trust () para 7 Back

69   Education Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2012-13, Careers Guidance for young people: the impact of the new duty on schools, HC 632-I Back

70   DfE, Careers Guidance and Inspiration in Schools: Departmental advice for governing bodies, school leaders and school staff, April 2014, p. 4 Back

71   Education Committee, Sixth Special Report of Session 2012-13, Careers guidance for young people: The impact of the new duty on schools: Government Response to the Committee's Seventh Report of Session 2012-13, HC1078, pp.3-4 Back

72   Q155 [Lorna Fitzjohn] Back

73   Oral evidence taken on 7 January 2015, HC (2014-15) 333, Q159 Back

74   Q194 Back

75   Q191 Back

76   DfE Evidence Check Memorandum: Raising the Participation Age, para 1 Back

77   New Economy Manchester () para 1.7 Back

78   City & Guilds (AAT0020) para 3 Back

79   DfE, School Performance Tables Back

80   DfE, Destinations of Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 pupils Back

81   DfE () para 7.8 Back

82   Q164 Back

83   Q457 Back

84   Education Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2012-13, Careers Guidance for young people: the impact of the new duty on schools, HC 632-I, paras 105 and 63 Back

85   Education Committee, Sixth Special Report of Session 2012-13, Careers guidance for young people: The impact of the new duty on schools: Government Response to the Committee's Seventh Report of Session 2012-13, HC1078, p.8 Back

86   DfE () p.3 Back

87   Q188 [Katerina Rudiger] Back

88   Q187 Back

89   Q73 Back

90   Q75 Back

91   Q76 Back

92   Education Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2012-13, Careers Guidance for young people: the impact of the new duty on schools, HC 632-I, para 109 Back

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Prepared 9 March 2015