The government must do more to promote the traineeship programme which had its numbers fall for the first time last year.
That was the message from key figures in the training sector at a special event in Parliament on Tuesday, hosted by shadow further education and skills minister Gordon Marsden and the Association of Education and Learning Providers (AELP).
The traineeship programme was launched in 2013 by the coalition government as a route into apprenticeships, education or employment – and to help youngsters become "job ready" by developing their soft skills.
Getting back on track
However, the programme has stalled recently, with traineeship starts falling last year for the first time. In 2016-17, there was a 15.7 per cent drop in starts, from 24,100 in the previous year to 20,300. The biggest drop was among 19- to 24-year-olds, with a fall of 31.3 per cent from 9,400 last year to 6,400. The latest Department for Education figures are expected on Thursday.
Mr Marsden said 19- to 24-year-olds were the very people the programme should be helping. He added: "If you can get people back on track at 19 who may have struggled in education previously, then traineeships provide a way to help them end up outperforming their peers.
"We need to give people who either can't or don't want to go through apprenticeship programme yet a chance to have the skills employers need."
AELP chairman Martin Dunford said the latent demand for this programme was "huge". He added: "It outscores the Department for Work and Pensions' jobs programme for people of same age, and work experience is a crucial part of the scheme."
Skills employers need
Executive chairman of training provider Qube Learning, Debbie Gardiner, said providers like hers found that without enough funding year on year, they had been forced to slow down their recruitment process for traineeships.
AELP chief executive Mark Dawe said 94 per cent of employers were happy with the traineeship programme. He called for more action to be taken by the government to promote the scheme and for a responsive funding system to be introduced.