Traineeships, the government’s flagship programme for helping low-skilled young people into work, could now last for as little as three weeks, it has emerged.
New guidance for 2014-15 says that the previous six-week minimum has been scrapped, and that work placements are now “expected” to last between 100-240 hours.
The guidance, in a new delivery framework document published last Friday, states: “Longer placements may be necessary to prepare young people for work, but these would need to be based on clearly identified learner needs.”
Today the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), which had lobbied for the change, welcomed the decision, which it said would offer providers flexibility and allow them to build personalised programmes for their learners.
A spokesman for the organisation said: “These changes, in AELP's view, are welcome steps in the right direction towards enabling traineeships to become fully effective."
But more remained to be done, he said, particularly in widening the number of employers eligible to take part in the scheme. It was also important that people were not off taking part in traineeships over fears they could miss out on benefits, he added.
The scheme, introduced last August, was designed to provide low-skilled people aged 16 to 23 with “the skills, experience and confidence to compete in the labour market”, acting as a stepping stone to an apprenticeship or employment.
However, it has had a troubled start. Last November, Ofsted’s FE and skills director Matthew Coffey said initial recruitment had been “disappointing”.
The government has also changed a number of rules as to who is eligible. In February’s Skills Funding Statement, it announced that funding would be available for 24-year-olds, and in March it removed the “16-hour rule” limiting the amount of time trainees aged 19 and over could train and still receive benefits.
However, skills minister Matthew Hancock said the programme was “off to a good start”, with more than 3,300 people starting traineeships in the first six months.
“Hundreds of training organisations, supported by hundreds more national and local employers, are offering opportunities to young people that will set them on the road to a successful career,” he said.
“Critically, we have already seen some excellent examples and successes; where a high proportion of young people are securing apprenticeships and jobs as a result of their traineeship.”