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Ucas-style portal for FE courses to launch

The online platform will offer Manchester's 16-18 students the chance to apply for apprenticeships and technical courses

A young person using a laptop to apply for an apprenticeship opportunity using the new Greater Manchester Ucas-style portal

The Labour mayor of Greater Manchester is set to deliver on a Conservative Party general election pledge – before the government has got round to it.

A Ucas-style portal, which will allow prospective learners to apply for apprenticeships and technical education courses, is set to launch in Greater Manchester this autumn.

In its 2017 general election manifesto, the Conservative Party said it would make the system easier for young people taking technical and vocational routes, including the introduction of a “Ucas-style portal for technical education”.

But last month, the government distanced itself from this commitment, alongside its pledge to offer travel discounts for apprentices – something the Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has already done – in response to a report by the Commons Education Select Committee on reforming apprenticeships.

Mr Burnham last week unveiled proposals as part of his Future of Greater Manchester strategy, which also includes plans for a free bus pass for 16- to 18-year-olds. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority approved the proposals in a meeting on Friday.

'Make it simple'

The Greater Manchester Careers Application Platform aims to “make it simple” for young people and their parents to choose between an academic or technical pathway.

Initially, the online platform will be available for 16- to 18-year-olds to apply for apprenticeships and courses offering technical qualifications, with the potential to expand the initiative to opportunities for those aged 18 or older, if it proves a success.

The scheme, which featured in Mr Burnham’s 2017 mayoral election manifesto, will also offer work-shadowing placements, and all the adverts will be quality-assured before they are posted by staff at the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Travel discounts for 16- to 18-year-olds and apprentices

Young people in Greater Manchester are also set to get free bus travel to help them reach college or sixth form, apprenticeships or leisure activities.

In a speech announcing the plans, Mr Burnham said the "Opportunity Pass" for 16- to 18-year-olds – initially running as a two-year pilot programme – will enable young people to “access the right course to develop their future career”. He added: “Free bus travel [will] ensure that life horizons are not limited by financial barriers. [It will be] a passport to study, apprenticeship or work but more than that; free or reduced entry to participating sporting, cultural and leisure venues.”

In December, the combined authority announced plans to extend its apprentice travel discount scheme from the current one-month free travel offer, to include three further months of reduced-priced travel on buses and trams. Apprentices can also get a free refurbished bike and cycling training courtesy of the combined authority.

Last month, the Department for Transport unveiled a national 16-17 railcard, which will extend half-price child fares to 16- and 17-year-olds. However, the reduced fares will not be available to 18-year-olds who are still in full-time education or an apprenticeship.

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