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'Disappointing' start for flagship training programme to get young people into work, says Ofsted

The early take-up of traineeships, the government’s flagship programme for helping young people into work, has been “disappointing”, an Ofsted official has claimed.

The scheme, introduced in August, was designed to provide low-skilled people aged 16-23 with “the skills, experience and confidence to compete in the labour market” as a stepping stone to an apprenticeship or employment.

Skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock told the Association of Colleges annual conference in Birmingham today that the programme had got off to a “great start”, with more than 500 training providers on board already.

But shortly afterwards, Matthew Coffey, Ofsted’s director for FE and skills, painted a less positive picture to delegates.

“The initial recruitment to traineeships is disappointing,” he said. “They were designed for young people who need just a step up to increasing their employability so that they are ready for apprenticeships or other employment with training.

“In making the impact of vocational training a priority for us, we will work to increase the quality of provision – but we expect providers to engage with employers to increase the number of places available.”

Ahead of his speech, Mr Coffey told TES that the Department for Education’s decision to only allow providers rated good or outstanding to offer the programme had limited its impact.

Ofsted published a report earlier this year, in which it argued that the programme had made a limited impact in getting young people into work.

“There are some real lessons in there we need to learn [for the traineeships programme],” Mr Coffey said. “It’s got to be absolutely focussed on getting people into jobs with training or an apprenticeship. That’s got to be its purpose. That was the bit in the foundation programme that really failed.

“[Traineeships] have got to be much more effectively engaged with work experience. I understand why there’s been less of a take-up, and that’s because there’s been a limit placed on those providers who are able to offer it.”

Some providers were “a little bit anxious” about the scheme, he added, but he called on more to sign up to deliver traineeships as “they are providing a real stepping stone to better and greater things”.

Mr Hancock’s assessment of the first weeks fo the traineeships programme was, not surprisingly, more upbeat.

“I said last year that I wanted to start quickly, and expand later – and that’s what we’ve done. Since August, we’ve made an extra £20 million available for young people of 19 and above, and for under-18s we’ve made clear that if you recruit more students than you are funded for, this will be recognised in the allocation you receive in the next year.”

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