A single portal for advertising apprenticeships must be introduced, experts said today.
Speaking at a meeting of the All-party Parliamentary Group on Apprenticeships hosted this afternoon, Siobhan Randell, inclusion and diversity lead at provider Multiverse, previously known as WhiteHat, said that the system was currently too complex for parents and learners.
She said: “A single point of application is necessary if the apprenticeships are ever going to have that parity of esteem we've been hearing about for a long time. All of the alternative pathways are just far too complex for parents and young people, whereas Ucas is super-simple and straightforward.”
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Carlene Jackson, chief executive and founder of Cloud9, said that having a government portal would help to raise awareness of opportunities available for learners.
Attracting more young people into apprenticeships
“There's no single portal for employers like myself who would like to employ an apprentice," she said. "I'd love to see a government portal where, whether it's as a parent or school, you can send students to. Why can't they go there and see who those employers are that are offering all of those degree or other level apprenticeships or even work experience? Why not take it to that level, because it's about getting a foot in the door.”
In an interview with Tes in December 2020, Ucas director of strategy John Cope advocated for a shared admissions application service set up by Ucas to oversee the entire apprenticeship system.
At the time, he said that the system was fragmented and that so much came down to luck, and that Ucas needed to “do all of the behind-the-scenes work” to oversee apprenticeship advertisement and application.
The transition from Kickstart to apprenticeships
The panellists at today's meeting also raised concerns about Kickstart and how well the new scheme worked alongside apprenticeships.
Announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak in July, the scheme will subsidise six-month placements for young people on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, with the government covering 100 per cent of the national minimum wage for 25 hours a week.
Co-chair of the APPG Karin Smyth, Labour MP for Bristol South, said Kickstart should be supported – but not at the expense of apprenticeships.
Dr Fiona Aldridge, director of policy and research at the Learning and Work Institute, said there needed to be a seamless transition between programmes.
"There are so many schemes out there in terms of traineeships, Kickstart, T levels, and we do need to do much more for them to be seamless and to present them as seamless, if you want more employers to engage," she said. "We have to make it easier for them to think about for their business to continue, what do they need, which of these programmes will help them, and to make it as easy as possible to engage with them.”
Laura-Jane Rawlings, chief executive of Youth Employment UK, said that the Department for Education and Department for Work and Pensions are coming together on this agenda to “ensure that the pathways make sense from Kickstart to traineeships for apprenticeships.”
Richard Hamer, education and skills director at BAE Systems, said that 30 young people were due to start at the company in March through the Kickstart scheme – and that BAE systems planned for 90 per cent of the learners to go on to an apprenticeship.
He said: “We set up our Kickstart programme as a direct link to the apprenticeship programme. So we will provide comparatory learning that will support them on to that journey into an apprenticeship, and we are building assessment into their six months with us to help us make that confident commitment to employ them at the end of the journey.”