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Traineeships programme to be expanded, Boles confirms

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Skills minister Nick Boles has signalled an expansion of the government’s traineeships programme and invited the sector to “think creatively” about its content.

Speaking at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) annual conference in London today, Mr Boles said the government was committed to the programme and wanted to grow it.

“We want to look at the whole definition of what’s in a traineeship,” he told delegates. “I hope we can think quite creatively about what goes into a traineeship and whether the terms in which it is highly defined are the best.”

Traineeships are an education and training programme for 16- to 24-year-olds, which include high-quality work experience and work preparation training as well as English and maths.

They can last between six weeks and six months, but are designed to help young people find work or start an apprenticeship as quickly as possible.

Mr Boles said he was “absolutely certain” that the programme needed to involve English, maths and work experience, but added: “What we need to have a debate about is does it need to have anything else in there specifically, do we need to be more prescriptive? Are we right about the length of time that it is expected to last, currently a maximum of six months? Are we right to restrict provision to certain kinds of providers, more prescriptively than different kinds of apprenticeships? These are all questions I’m keen to discuss with you over the next few months.”

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the AELP, welcomed the minister's comments and said there was a need to improve the traineeships programme. “It should apply to more people and the government should allow more providers to deliver it,” he told TES.

More than 10,000 young people started a traineeship in 2013-14, the first year of the programme, and there have been 5,000 further starts in the first three months of 2014-15.

Earlier this year in a letter to the sector, Mr Boles said he wanted to double the number of traineeships to more than 20,000 this year.

In March, research showed that the majority of young people and employers felt positive about the impact of traineeships. An evaluation of the first year of the programme found that 79 per cent of trainees were satisfied with their experience, and 97 per cent of employers and 98 per cent of providers agreed that traineeships would help young people find a permanent job or apprenticeship.

Also at the AELP conference, Mr Boles has questioned whether the general further education college model has a future, amid warnings that “difficult choices” will have to be made about the “less productive bits” of the FE system.

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