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Support into work

Beyond traineeships: what does the future of pre-employment support look like for young people?

A young man sits on some steps outside, holding his phone in his hands. He smiles at the camera.

Last month, we invited experts from across sectors, and young job seekers who have been through some of Catch22’s employability programmes, to take part in a webinar discussing what worked and what didn’t when it came to traineeships. In the light of recent changes to the traineeship system, we asked – going forward, how are young people being supported in the often daunting task of finding ‘good’ work?

Traineeships: the current situation

Traineeships support young people who have little work experience, but who want to work, to develop the skills and experience to make the successful transition into sustainable employment. Earlier this year it was revealed that only one third of the government’s traineeships budget was spent during the past two years with the treasury recouping £230 million in unspent funds. Years of limited take-up were to blame for the decision, with starts reaching just half and two-thirds of their respective targets in 2020/21 and 2021/22.

In December last year it was announced that, after ten years of delivery, traineeships would be integrated into the Study Programme (16-18) and Adult Education Budget (19-24) from the 1 August 2023. We spoke to industry, government and job seekers themselves, about what constitutes good pre-employment support.

Traineeships aren’t gone forever

It is worth noting that traineeships will not be disappearing completely. Funding for traineeships will be incorporated into Study Programme funding for 16-18 year olds and Adult Education Budget (AEB) funding for learners aged 19+.

“All the elements of a traineeship will still be available to young people.”

– Steve Latus, Head of Traineeships at the Department for Education

Building on the traineeship legacy – what changes do we want to see?

Below is a summary of the key recommendations Nicola Aylward, Head of Learning for Young People at Learning and Work Institute set out to government. This is part of a wider piece of research conducted by Catch22 and Learning and Work Institute on the future of pre-employability support.

1. A youth guarantee

“We would like to see the government introduce a youth guarantee with local flexibility.”

– Nicola Aylward, Head of Learning for Young People at Learning and Work Institute

Applying to all 16-24 year-olds, a youth guarantee would ensure all young people are able to access a job, an apprenticeship, or another education or training programme. The youth guarantee should take a localised approach, built in co-ordination with devolved provision.

2. A streamlined process to accessing support

“I found it difficult getting and finding the resources I needed to access that first job.”

– Corrin, participant on the Catch22 Digital Edge pre-employability programme

The complex landscape currently in place means the options available to young people are often unclear. Many of the different provisions available are competing with one another and have similar objectives, adding to the confusion. As part of a Youth Guarantee, the Government should set out a coherent offer for young people, underpinned by clear learning and progression routes, for example to jobs and apprenticeships in digital roles which are in high demand by employers. The offer should be clearly communicated to Job Centre Plus staff, schools and colleges, and underpinned by effective promotion.

3. Ensure adequate financial support for young people

“If you’re a young person and you’re not in a position to take a risk, it’s hard to commit to unpaid opportunities.”

– Alex, participant on the Catch22 Digital Edge pre-employability programme

This is particularly important for people from underrepresented groups. The unpaid work experience aspect of traineeships has been known to put people off, and this has only been made worse during the cost-of-living crisis. Employers and public sector should explore more options to provide financial support to young people taking part in pre-employment support.

Catch22’s pre-employability programmes

Sam Stanyer, Catch22 Senior Operations Manager for Employability, spoke about Catch22’s Digital Edge programme, funded by Microsoft, which supports those facing barriers to work into tech and digital roles. The four-week programme offers sector specific skills industry insight – whilst also providing broader employability support such as interview techniques and confidence building. Sam ran us through the delivery model for the programme, and what sets it apart from other pre-employability programmes.

“The one-to-one support is probably one of the most important elements of Digital Edge: a consistent face who will support you for up to six months after being placed into work.”

– Sam Stanyer, Senior Operations Manager for Employability at Catch22

The importance of a localised approach

In the final section of the webinar, Dr Fiona Aldridge, Head of Insight – Economic Delivery, Skills and Communities at West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) set out the authority’s plans for the devolved funding that is now available following the integration of traineeships into the Study Programme and Adult Education Budget.

Starting with the jobs in our local economy

Fiona explained that, when planning the pre-employment provision for local young people:

“We start with the jobs in our economy and then devise the right training to support our young people to get into good quality jobs.”

It is important that young people know that there are genuine employment opportunities waiting for them at the end of their training.

Targeted intervention with wraparound support

Fiona spoke about WMCA’s pilot pre-apprenticeship programme, developed in partnership with Accenture, and how this provides intensive support for young people looking to start an apprenticeship. The programme has been built in partnership with employers who offer good quality apprenticeships who will commit to paying the minimum wage to young people placed in a role. As well as supporting young people to develop their skills, the pilot also provides wraparound support including coaching and mentoring.

If you’re interested in finding out more about our work in the pre-employment space, get in touch.