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Paul Farrell

PHX Training

Work-based Learning Manager

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Traineeships: Creating ladders of opportunity


Paul Farrell looks at the benefits of traineeships and apprenticeships in the battle against youth unemployment.

The economic recovery is boosting the number of job opportunities across the UK, but there is a danger that young people are being left behind. Figures released by think tank Public Policy Research (IPPR) have revealed that, despite the overall fall in UK unemployment, there are still 868,000 people between 16 and 24 years old who are unable to find work. The research comes as the UK unemployment rate falls to 6.4% according to the Office of National Statistics – the lowest level since the beginning of the 2008 economic crash.

Apprenticeships are a tried and tested route into employment for many young people, offering huge benefits for both the employer and the apprentices themselves. For businesses, apprenticeships can grow talent, improve efficiencies and add skills to a workforce. Apprentices offer a fresh perspective, can help bridge the skills gap and often lead to a more committed workforce.

Ensuring work-readiness

However, a common complaint among employers is that many apprentices are not yet ‘work ready’. The IPPR report states that around 700,000 unemployed young people have never had a job, so it comes as no surprise that some young people lack some of the skills needed in the workplace.

Traineeships, the apprenticeship’s lesser-known relation, were created by the coalition government in 2013 to help tackle this problem and reduce the number of young people not in education, employment or training, known as NEETs. Traineeships are government-funded programmes which are aimed at 16 to 23-year-olds and last anything between six weeks to six months. Businesses provide work experience placements, while training organisations teach English, maths and employability skills. Essentially, the traineeship programme provides a stepping stone to an apprenticeship.

As well as giving young people the skills they need to develop their careers and benefit the wider economy, traineeships are a valuable resource for small businesses. For employers, they offer an opportunity to gain additional employees, adding skills to the workforce while growing the organisation. It is also an opportunity to gauge whether taking on an apprentice is right for the organisation. For many businesses, traineeships are growing resources at no additional cost, and the young person is a valuable asset at the end of it.

Comparing the two

In the case of both apprenticeships and traineeships, the cost of training is covered by the government. However, employers will have to cover an apprentice’s wage, while they are not required to pay young people on traineeships. The length of time also varies; apprenticeships last between one and two years while traineeships range from six weeks to six months in length.

People of any age can undertake an apprenticeship, but traineeships are specifically aimed at young people. Participants must be aged 16 to 18 and qualified below NVQ level 3, or aged 19 to 23 and qualified below NVQ level 2.

Neither pathway guarantees the young person a job at the end, but employers often choose to keep an apprentice on in a permanent role because they have invested time and money into the young person’s development. At the end of a traineeship, there is an additional grant of £1,500 available to businesses if it traineeship leads to an apprenticeship, subject to eligibility.

Both apprenticeships and traineeships lead to a nationally recognised qualification and valuable experience.

Raising standards

The government, along with the training industry as a whole, is striving to ensure that apprenticeships are seen as being equivalent to a degree, so it is becoming more and more important that prospective apprentices meet a certain standard. English and maths skills are critical, and soft skills such as communication and even interview techniques are incredibly important for entering the workplace. Traineeships will raise the quality of apprenticeships, whereas an apprenticeship on its own will leave some school leavers behind.

Traineeships shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to an apprenticeship, but as a form of high-quality work experience combined with learning to push up standards and provide businesses with a skilled, experienced and qualified workforce that will boost the overall economy. The idea is to create a ladder of opportunity which allows young people to climb from a traineeship to an apprenticeship to a successful career in their chosen industry. Traineeships offer a genuine opportunity for those young people who are not quite ready to undertake an apprenticeship to develop the necessary skills to prepare them to enter employment.

Overall, both apprenticeships and traineeships are helping to feed the skills pipeline which is so vital to recovery.

PHX Training delivers government-backed training initiatives including the Learndirect scheme, Apprenticeship training and the Work Programme. A team of trainers delivers a diverse range of resources including offline, online and face-to-face services at 10 training centres in Preston, Barrow-in-Furness, Blackpool, Kendal, Millom, Morecambe, Penrith, Southport, Carlisle and Workington.

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Paul Farrell

Work-based Learning Manager

Read more from Paul Farrell

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