More visibility for Traineeships essential

27 February 2014

Employers are positive about the potential of Traineeships, but many have not heard about the programme. This is the key finding of research by NIACE – funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation – to examine how Traineeships might work for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) within the context of a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area.

For this research – which focussed on the Dorset LEP area – a range of stakeholders were interviewed, including STEM employers, learning providers and local policymakers. Whilst those interviewed were positive about how Traineeships provide a much needed pathway to STEM job roles for young people, prior to receiving the NIACE pre-interview briefing, none of the 14 employers who participated had heard of Traineeships.

The report also highlights a number of other key findings, including:

  • How a lack of effective Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) around STEM is a barrier to young peoples’ entry to STEM job roles and Traineeships.
  • Maths skills are important for young people on a pathway to STEM job roles, and as the programme requires, should be a core component of Traineeships. However, maths provision should be contextualised to enable young people to develop the specific skills needed in STEM workplaces.
  • The costs of offering STEM Traineeship work placements are a barrier to employers’ engagement.
  • Traineeships have the potential to significantly improve social inclusion, reduce youth unemployment and help sustain economic growth.

Fiona Aldridge, Head of Learning for Work at NIACE, said:

“One of the most encouraging parts of this research has been the enthusiasm from employers for Traineeships. However, it was staggering that not one of the employers was aware of the programme. This lack of awareness is clearly limiting the potential of Traineeships, particularly given the fundamental role of employers in offering work placements, a core component of the programme. We are hoping that forthcoming national promotion of Traineeships, during National Apprenticeship Week, will significantly help to address this.

“The research findings also show that LEPs, as key strategic bodies with responsibility for local growth, have a potentially unique and fundamental role to play in ensuring that Traineeships deliver outcomes that meet the individual and often specialist needs of local STEM labour markets. Through developing an integrated and effective local approach to STEM Traineeships, LEPs can also have a positive impact on national STEM workforce skills shortages, as well as contributing to the reduction of youth unemployment.”

NIACE is running two free seminars at the end of March to help providers develop successful Traineeship programmes. The Skills Funding Statement highlighted that from 2014/15 Traineeship funding will be extended to 24 year olds (previously restricted to 16-23 year olds) and that Government will consider how to incentivise positive outcomes from Traineeships, in particular around jobs and Apprenticeships. It also confirmed that young people claiming Job Seekers Allowance and undertaking a Traineeship will be exempt from the 16-hour rule that currently restricts their participation in education and training, effective from 3 March 2014.

Supported by BIS, the seminars will highlight the effective practice that is emerging and will also give providers the chance to hear from government about how the policy is developing, to share concerns and to identify solutions for overcoming challenges. The seminars will draw on NIACE’s work with providers such as Weston College, Outsource Training and Development and Burnley College.

Nicola Aylward, NIACE Project Officer, said:

“Traineeships undoubtedly have great potential. The need for a focussed, yet flexible programme that supports young people to gain an Apprenticeship place or access employment is well documented. Despite getting off to a slow start, the responsiveness of government to the initial teething problems is likely to see Traineeship provision and participation numbers increase substantially during the first half of 2014. We’re confident that our seminars too will play a significant part in raising awareness among providers and increasing overall participation in Traineeships. It will be crucial, however, for government to continue to monitor and be responsive to the factors that are limiting the programme’s potential.”