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

Conclusions and recommendations

The quality and range of apprenticeship provision

1.  The number of young people starting apprenticeships in recent years has been a consistent but low proportion of the numbers of young people involved in vocational education. We welcome the improvement in the number of quality apprenticeships for young people lasting at least 12 months but overall numbers have not increased. (Paragraph 30)

2.  16-19 year olds tend to undertake level 2 apprenticeships, which vary in the degree of demand made of the apprentice. (Paragraph 31)

3.  The Government is seeking to increase the number of apprenticeships by extending the range of sectors in which apprenticeships that are available. It is important to ensure that such growth does not sacrifice quality, as apprenticeships should always require substantial training and always deliver a substantial uplift in earning power for the apprentice. Level 2 apprenticeships that comply with these principles should be retained. (Paragraph 32)

4.  Excessive emphasis on apprenticeships as a means to combat youth unemployment risks reinforcing the myth that apprenticeships are a second class option and damages the apprenticeship brand. (Paragraph 33)

5.  The central challenge for the Government is to incentivise an increase in the number of young people undertaking apprenticeships at the same time as improving the quality of provision and its impact on earnings. (Paragraph 34)

Benefits of apprenticeships

6.  There is a general consensus in the evidence that government investment in apprenticeships represents good value for money and provides a range of benefits for employers. (Paragraph 44)

7.  Good quality apprenticeships can provide long term benefits for young people. (Paragraph 45)

8.  We recommend that the Government review the benefits provided by funding adult apprenticeships and apprenticeships for young people respectively and assess whether more or all of the money would be better spent on 16 to 19 year-olds. (Paragraph 46)

9.  We recommend that the Government expand the existing matched administrative data sets on apprenticeship outcomes with information on the occupation and industry in which individuals are employed. This would help prospective apprentices make informed comparisons between different frameworks and would aid in evaluating the impact of apprenticeships policy. (Paragraph 47)

10.  We recommend that the Government review the data collected on apprenticeships to allow assessment of the effect on income of different apprenticeship frameworks. (Paragraph 48)

11.  Having accepted our fifth principle, that apprenticeships should be income-transformative, the Government should set out how it will put this into practice. (Paragraph 49)

Engaging young people

12.  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. (Paragraph 67)

13.  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. (Paragraph 68)

14.  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. (Paragraph 69)

15.  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. (Paragraph 70)

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

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

18.  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. (Paragraph 73)

Reform of apprenticeship standards

19.  The level of employer involvement in the Trailblazer scheme shows that there is an appetite for greater ownership of standards among many employers. (Paragraph 91)

20.  Increased employer ownership of apprenticeship standards is a worthwhile goal, but the Trailblazer process is at risk of being dominated by larger companies at the expense of SMEs. The success of the scheme will rest on whether wider industry sectors have confidence in the standards the Trailblazers have developed. (Paragraph 92)

21.  We recommend that the Government review, and come forward with proposals to strengthen, the involvement of SMEs in the Trailblazer scheme, accepting that most will be unable to give as much time as larger employers. (Paragraph 93)

22.  While it is clear that the Government is aware of the issue of ownership of standards in the post-Trailblazer environment, more work is needed to ensure that employers and providers can have confidence that apprenticeship standards will be reviewed and maintained once the Trailblazer scheme has concluded. (Paragraph 94)

23.  We recommend that the Government set out its expectations about what will happen following the conclusion of the Trailblazer scheme. This should cover ongoing ownership of new apprenticeship standards, how new standards will be developed or existing standards revised in response to future needs, and who will provide oversight and leadership of these processes. Provision for a meaningful involvement from SMEs in the post-Trailblazer environment should form part of these expectations. (Paragraph 95)

24.  We recommend that the Government set out how it intends to evaluate the success of the Trailblazer programme in the longer term, particularly identifying how the quality of new standards should be judged. (Paragraph 96)

25.  The Education and Training Foundation's review of English and maths qualifications may propose a solution to the problem of setting appropriate requirements for apprentices who have not achieved Grade C at GCSE in maths and English which suits both apprentices and employers. In the meantime apprentices should be allowed to take a functional skills qualification, rather than being pushed to take GCSEs which may deter perfectly able candidates from becoming apprentices. (Paragraph 97)

26.  We recommend that the Trailblazers be allowed to choose which level 2 qualification in English and maths is required to be studied as part of their apprenticeships. The Government should encourage Trailblazers to work with the Education and Training Foundation project looking at English and maths qualifications. (Paragraph 98)

Reform of apprenticeship funding

27.  Many employers support the principles behind the Government's reforms to apprenticeship funding but the majority of witnesses to this inquiry expressed strong concerns about the proposed methods of implementation. The Government's initial proposals were complex and could have imposed an unnecessary administrative burden on employers that would have been particularly felt by SMEs. We congratulate the Government on listening and dropping them. (Paragraph 115)

28.  Swift development of new apprenticeship funding proposals is vital to end uncertainty and make sure employers are not deterred from involvement. Further delay caused by the General Election or otherwise could undermine efforts both to drive up quality and engage more employers in apprenticeships. (Paragraph 116)

29.  We recommend that the new apprenticeship funding regime offer SMEs a choice between taking a lead on administering the funding or contracting it out to a provider. (Paragraph 117)

30.  We recommend that the Government clarify what role training providers, local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and others may have in assisting employers with the administration of apprenticeships under the new funding arrangements. (Paragraph 118)

31.  The Government should ensure that the employment of young apprentices is made more, not less, attractive to employers, and particularly small employers, as a result of the funding changes. The benefits of taking on young apprentices also need to be widely and effectively advertised. (Paragraph 119)

32.  We recommend that the Government set out in advance the criteria by which the value for money and broader success of the new funding approach can and will be evaluated. (Paragraph 120)

33.  Apprentices accept a lower wage in recognition of the investment by employers in their training and the promise of a significant uplift at the end of the programme. We support this principle but this lower wage is rightly a legal minimum and we are concerned that some young people are not receiving it. (Paragraph 121)

34.  The Government should take steps to ensure that all employers who flout the law on the apprenticeship minimum wage are identified and swift action is taken against them. Training providers should educate apprentices about their employment rights and how to take action if their rights are breached. (Paragraph 122)

35.  Any review of the apprenticeship minimum wage should recognise the need for the internal economics of the apprenticeship to add up for the employer, and particularly the small employer, or the number of apprenticeships on offer will drop further still. So long as a low minimum wage for young apprentices is accompanied by a high quality, sustained input from employers and a transformative impact on earnings afterwards, then it can and should be supported. (Paragraph 123)

Increasing employer engagement

36.  The Government should set out how reforms to funding and standards will improve the benefits employers receive from engaging in apprenticeships. (Paragraph 129)

37.  We recommend that the Government explore the most effective measures to encourage more employers to take on apprentices. (Paragraph 130)


38.  The impact of traineeships is currently unclear. Where employers and providers have engaged with the programme there are examples of positive outcomes for participants. There is a clear need for a pre-employment programme to help young people into employment or apprenticeships. (Paragraph 137)

39.  The Government should provide greater clarity about the purpose of traineeships and what the success criteria for the programme are. (Paragraph 138)

40.  The Government should ensure that Job Centre Plus staff are able to advise people properly about the impact of traineeships on benefit entitlement. (Paragraph 139)

41.  The Government should promote the activities of the best performing local authorities so that best practice in identifying and delivering services to young people at risk of disengagement is shared. (Paragraph 140)

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Prepared 9 March 2015