apprenticeships

The EDu Taskforce apprenticeship report didn’t have recommendations for employers so I added some

After writing this blog for all these years, a few returning themes certainly start to emerge. A regular concern I have posted about is the erroneous view (in my opinion) that the low percentages of young people gaining apprenticeships is not down to an awareness issue but due to more complex mix of lack of vacancies & demand outstripping supply, the negative perception of the quality of apprenticeships, employers hiring practices and views favouring older applicants and lack of efficacy in their applications due to their poor networks, work experience and failure to explain their transferable skills. Addressing these issues would take significant investment in student support mechanisms (eg staff) and a culture change in employment hiring so the far easier soundbite for policy makers has always been to bemoan the awareness of apprenticeships in young people.

The position that I disagree with has gained substantive backing with the release of new report from the Education & Employers Taskforce.

This is a piece of work from the researchers who’s previous findings have, I think it’s fair to say, had a substantial impact on the CEIAG policy direction in recent years.

The report uses the following statistic:

Recent government figures have shown that despite the overall number of apprenticeships increasing, the number of under 19s starts have stagnated at around 20%

as a launchpad for examining the methods and practices of schools from which a higher proportion of students do progress into apprenticeships. The Taskforce, quite sensibly, want to amplify those practices and see how expandable they are for all schools. Some of the useful lessons to be learnt are that

In seeking to address the negative attitudes and assumptions young people hold about apprenticeships, the literature suggests that increasing the level of authentic exposure of young people to the apprenticeship route could be helpful.

which is a branch of the previous findings of the Taskforce that employer encounters are beneficial to employment outcomes of learners.

Useful tips to consider when designing school CEIAG provision include altering CV writing sessions by using application form writing frames instead as

Only five of the employers surveyed mentioned using CVs at any point when hiring apprentices, with thirteen instead making reference to an online assessment or
application form which contained a number of write in questions. In our sample of schools, however, CV workshops were still highlighted by the majority of respondents as a method for preparing young people for job applications.

but also more generic recommendations such as promoting higher and degree apprenticeships more, promoting with students at a younger age and raising the profile of apprenticeships with parents. These are all aims which any school Careers professional would agree with and strive for. The survey findings acknowledge the transformative effect good careers work that utilises employers can have

Schools remain, based on the responses given by young people (see figure 1), a key source of information for future possibilities as much as employers. In particular, for those young people who do not have access to personal connection, schools may be major players in raising awareness and broadening aspirations

The report also looks at the desire of young people to want to pursue an apprenticeship

edu apprenticeships1

which, on the face of things, suggests that apprenticeships do not entice enough young people to even attempt to apply for them. What is missing though from this response is the contextual data that show that many more young people apply for apprenticeship vacancies than there are vacancies to begin with

so, even with that low-interest base, the current labour market intelligence shows any young person that securing an apprenticeship is much more difficult than gaining a place at a Sixth Form or FE College. This is acknowledged elsewhere in the report

Demand for apprenticeships from young people far outstrips supply. According to data from the National Apprenticeship Service and the governments FE data library, more than 1.6 million online applicants competed for 211,380 vacancies posted online in 2016

Which makes it odd then that, the report does not mirror the recommendations for schools and include recommendations for employers. So here are the ones which I think they should’ve included to achieve more young people transferring into an apprenticeship before 19.

1. Advertise more apprenticeship vacancies

Because of the above

2. Pay them more

Using current apprentices as role models is a wise method of provision. The Young Apprentice Ambassador Network should be in the toolbox of every school Careers Leader. But if you really want the value of good word of mouth to cascade down from those current apprentices, listen to their own feedback and increase the wages offered.

edu apprenticeships2

3. Make your hiring process more accessible

Careers Leaders understand that it’s their job to increase the employability of young people and that includes making them able to decode and navigate the application process but please, meet us halfway. Many apprenticeship application processes at larger companies are unnecessarily complex from the initial web search (no, vacancies in Doha are not of interest) to the language used. This was highlighted in a recent article by Paul Johnson, Director of the IFS

This could also include having downloadable pdf’s of your application form on your school leaver or apprenticeship website so that practitioners could print these off and use them in a group session.

4. Stop bemoaning the influence of parents

The report includes references to literature, surveys and feedback

Many parents of our generation were brought up during the old YTS days and perceptions have stuck for example parents calling it slave labour. Parents also question the loss of child benefit and many will prevent their children from doing an apprenticeship based on this factor. I recently had a conversation with a parent of a 17-year-old at our 6th form who is stopping her son because of this

that highlights parents as negative influencers on young people thinking about apprenticeships. But excludes data that suggests that attitudes are changing such as the recent Varkey Foundation global survey of parents

 

5. Be honest about your skill requirements & consider new hires instead

Many apprenticeships are not new jobs but training schemes for current employees. As the 2015 Ofsted report “Developing skills for future prosperity” noted

Nationally, considerably more 16- to 18-year-olds apply for apprenticeships
than those aged 25 and over, but far fewer become apprentices. Approximately 40% of the 19,000 learners on apprenticeships at the providers visited were aged 25 and over, whereas only 29% were aged 16 to 18. Most of these older apprentices were already employed in jobs that were converted to apprenticeships.

The Taskforce report also fails to acknowledge this, so the starting point assumption that all apprenticeships were open to school leavers to apply to is a false premise.

The Ofsted report also includes typical employer viewpoints such as

the employers interviewed frequently said that they were reluctant to take a young apprentice straight from school. Two factors dominated their rationale for this.

  • They believed too many 16-year-old school leavers lacked personal
    presentation and communication skills, or gave the impression at interview
    that they were immature and unreliable.
  • They recognised that employing an apprentice required a significant
    investment in time to train them in the generic employability skills and did
    not feel they could afford this.

which shows the hurdles that young applicants have to overcome.

This report and the accompanying sector news coverage paint a simplified view of the issues around young people and apprenticeship uptake which contends that, if only awareness was higher; then more young people would secure apprenticeships. The concern for me is that this view will find only too welcoming a home in the minds of policy makers looking for easy blames and quick fixes. As ever, the actual solution of not just improving awareness but also the employability, cultural capital, application and recruitment efficacy of young people and changing the hiring culture and stereotypical views of employers, is a challenge that would require a much more herculean level of investment, time and effort.

 

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The Cold Spots accountability hole

 

Following on from the previous post on this blog looking at how the non publication of apprenticeship vacancy, starts, registrations and applications data by age will mean an accountability hole when judging the progress of the Careers Strategy and schools guidance documents, this is a sequel post of sorts looking at another data accountability gap that will cause the Careers & Enterprise Company some problems.

The release of the Company’s Cold Spots research in 2015 drew together a number of data sources from other Government departments and quangos to map the weaker and stronger areas of employer engagement focused careers provision across England. This audit was useful as it allowed the Company to focus pilot schemes and target initial provision into the locations that needed it the most.

The Company has recently released a short, 2017 update to that original Cold Spots report that, according to those external data sources, shows a “warming” in career outcomes for young people across England.

coldspots1

This map shows that only one Local Enterprise Partnership area (Thames Valley Berkshire) has regressed and was now returning a higher number of cold spot indicators than in 2015. As the report itself says though, “it is too early to make claims about causality” and this is included for good reason. The original 2015 Cold Spots were based on 9 external data sources

Deprivation indicator:
– % Pupils known to be eligible for and claiming free school meals (FSM)1
2013/14
Employer engagement indicators i.e., “cold spots”
– % Employer establishments who had anyone in on work experience2 in the
last 12 months
– % Employer establishments who offered any work inspiration3 in the last
12 months
Outcome indicators:
– % Pupils attaining 5A*-C GCSE results in England 2013 – 14
– % A-levels entered that are STEM4 2013 – 14
– % STEM4 A-levels that are entered by girls 2013 – 145
– % In sustained apprenticeship destinations post key stage 4 (KS4) 2012/13
– % 16-17 year olds NEET (not in education, employment and training), as
reported by LA in June 2015
– % Employers answering: 16 year old school leavers are “poorly” or “very
poorly prepared” for work
– % Employers answering: 17-18 year olds recruited to first time job from
school are “poorly” or “very poorly prepared” for work

The 2016 update continued to use these sources but now the 2017 update finds itself in a quandary as two of those sources (the two employer returns from the UKCES employer survey data looking at satisfaction of school leaver skills & the offers of work experience and work inspiration activities from businesses) are no longer reporting in the same manner. This is due to the closure of UKCES. The responsibility to continue the survey moved to the DfE but the data gathered will be from a smaller sample size (around 18,000 telephone interviews in the 2016 edition vs over 91,000 telephone and face to face interviews in the UKCES editions) leaving the CEC with a dilemma. They need to both show progress on the continuing funded work both in cold spot areas (opportunity areas in Government speak) across the country but also to show the distance traveled from the starting point since the CEC’s inception this data has to be somewhat comparable year on year.

This leaves the CEC relying on GCSE results data and student destination data which are useful outputs to monitor but are one-sided in focusing on the supply side of students entering the workplace. The views of the demand side from employers would not now be comparable across past years.

Thus the recent publication ends with a consultative call for suggestions on which data points to use to achieve this. The CEC should be wary about using data supplied by employer bodies such as the CBI as, historically, this has been much more scathing on the work readiness of school leavers entering the labour market and much more positive about the contribution of business offering experiences to young people. The UKCES returns told a story of employers being much more satisfied with the employability skills of young people and of a significantly smaller amount of engagement provision with education. So the first stipulation for any new data sources the CEC use, would be that they should be from impartial sources. On the flip side to this coin, data supplied by LEPs should also be considered with an arched eyebrow for they will be keen to champion the success of Government funding in their own patch.

It’s also worth pointing out that the improving “warming” outcomes are in direct opposition to survey results from young people who report a lower number of employer engagements last academic year.

Does asking young people what they actually experienced meet the criteria the CEC is looking for?

Another factor for the CEC to consider is that trends in some of these data points are very much at the whim of changeable Government policy. Putting aside the example of UKCES closing it’s doors, using the number of KS4 leavers in sustained Apprenticeship destinations is commendable but since 2015 the Apprenticeship Levy has reshaped that sector, initially caused a drop in overall numbers of starts and begun to grow the provision that is left towards higher and degree apprenticeships and away from the Level 2 Apprenticeships open to 16-year-old GCSE leavers. The Higher Education Funding review could yet again change levels of tuition fees and so impact the desired destinations of young people. Perhaps the case is being made for the CEC to allocate some of its funding to tender for its own data collections and not be reliant on other arms of the State but, at a scale similar to UKCES level data collection, this would need significant investment.

It is the task of the CEC, to make a quantifiable impact on an area of public policy with multiple inputs and multiple outputs and, with their expanded remit in the Careers Strategy, the number of inputs will only grow. Getting the data points right to measure that impact is proving tricky.

The apprenticeship accountability hole in the Careers Strategy

Now that the Careers Strategy and both the subsequent Statutory Guidance for Schools and the Guidance for Colleges and Sixth Forms has been published, thoughts turn to not just implementation of the ambitions contained in all 3 documents but how the progress of the sector (and Government) will be measured against them.

A cornerstone of both the Careers Strategy and the Statutory Guidance for Schools is the need to improve the awareness of and the aspiration to apply for apprenticeship routes in young people.

The Careers Strategy decrees that the new Baker Clause law will ensure that young people are, ” are clear about the opportunities offered by technical, employment-focused education” (para 32). It highlights the work and the resources offered by the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network as a way of promoting the route. STEM apprenticeships should be promoted (para 44), the £4m funded training for 500 of the newly defined Career Leader posts in schools will include information about apprenticeships and the revamped National Careers Service website will include apprenticeship information as well as allowing young people to apply for vacancies through the site.

Meanwhile, the Statutory Guidance for Schools again is clear on the requirement to include information on apprenticeships in careers provision and promotes organisations such as Amazing Apprenticeships and the ASK Apprenticeship scheme as well as the steps needed for a school to be compliant with the Baker Clause (paras 61-69).

This is all to be welcomed by Careers practitioners in schools looking for more power to their elbow to help them prepare an impartial careers programme. What is missing though from both documents and, it seems, wider Department For Education thinking is how this provision will be evaluated. The Statutory Guidance document includes reference to how Ofsted will evaluate the outcomes of this work

Destination Measures

A successful careers guidance programme will also be reflected in higher numbers of pupils progressing to positive destinations such as apprenticeships, technical routes, sixth form colleges, further education colleges, universities or employment. Destination measures provide clear and comparable information on the success of schools in helping all of their pupils take qualifications that offer them the best opportunity to continue in education or training.

in their Section 5 inspections. If the entire evaluation of this theme of the Careers Strategy and Guidance is just these (sometimes very infrequent) inspections of schools below Outstanding grade) looking at destinations of KS4 & KS5 leavers, then a lot of schools will be harshly judged for their work.

We know that employers favour hiring older employees for their apprenticeships as Ofsted laid out in their 2015 report “Apprenticeships: developing skills for future prosperity (para 26).

While still early after the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, it should also be noted that the number of Level 2 apprenticeships accessible for school leavers is falling while the growth is in the higher Degree Level apprenticeships, many of which are not new positions but current employees taking new training.

This further narrowing in the number of opportunities for young people to actually progress into means that using only destination measures to monitor the success of careers provision is a metric weighed heavily against schools.

A much fairer way would be to measure both the aspiration of young people to progress into an apprenticeship route and then the number of applications made. At institutional level, collecting this data would be the responsibility of the Careers Leader but at regional and national level, the Government should surely be collating this.

The intentions of young people are regularly assessed by the DfE in their Omnibus Survey series of surveys, the most recent of which shows that apprenticeships still have a journey to make to become a first choice for significant numbers of students

That being said, as Ofsted noted above, young people have always been the largest cohort of registrations and applications on the Find An Apprenticeship portal as the spreadsheets here show. As you can see from the number of registrations by age and number of applications by age spreadsheets, interest from those 19 and under has always outstripped the supply of vacancies.

The problem is that the DfE has now stopped publishing these figures. This will be a substantive hole in the accountability data for the success of the Careers Strategy and the Statutory Guidance for schools.

Judging the progress and impact of the Careers Strategy and Statutory Guidance for schools is a wide reaching task but one that will only possible in any meaningful, quantifiable way, if data such as the number of applications for apprenticeships made young people of school leaver age is collected and published. The DfE should rethink their decision to stop publishing these stats.

 

The apprenticeship PR still doesn’t match the vacancy numbers reality

Every summer, the news cycle shines its brief gaze on the exam results of our nation’s youth and those you wish to promote their specific routes for young people attempt to gain PR traction usually by doing down the other pathways on offer. This summer I found it noticeable the extent articles and headlines blamed poor careers advice specifically in relation for a perceived lack of interest or knowledge in young people about apprenticeships.

A number of articles highlighted the results of an online survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) that reported that 8% of 15-18 year olds were being advised to pursue the apprenticeship route and that 28% had never been spoken to by their school or college about apprenticeships. This was picked up by specialist sites such as FE News and mainstream press such as The Mirror. The quoted response from Alex Meikle, the Director of the ECA, was that “too many young people are effectively being led up the garden path by careers advice in schools, which is significantly out of step with the needs of industry and future employers.”

Elsewhere, Labour MP Frank Field was writing in the TES that A Level students had “been sold a pup” by schools and advisers due to the increasing rates of apprentice pay progression and employment opportunities compared to the weakening graduate labour market. The Managing Director of the NOCN, Graham Hastings-Evans, was also in the TES, claiming that it was “not too late” for students let down by poor careers advice to still apply for vocational and apprenticeship routes. And finally, the new Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, Anne Milton, took the opportunity in The Telegraph to promote the route and the Government’s work on the Skills Plan.

All of this attention is welcome for promoting the full variety of routes on offer to young people but, in their haste to do down careers advice as the reason that large numbers of young people are still following traditional paths the writers are conveniently forgetting a number of facts.

  1.  Large numbers of secondary school pupils would consider taking vocational routes post 16

pupil survey1

2. Significant proportions of young people who want to pursue vocational pathways are battling unsupportive parents (same source)

parents apprenticeships

3. For Level 3 students, the choice of Higher Apprenticeships is miniscule

apprenticeship vacancies by level

Using the above data from the GOV.UK FE Data Library we can see that there have only been 3908 Higher Apprenticeship vacancies advertises in the whole 17/18 year to date, 3810 in 15/16 and 2870 in 14/15. So Apprenticeship provision at this level is growing but compare this to the numbers of students transitioning from Level 3 into traditional Higher Education routes. For the 2017 application cycle, just from England the total of 18 & 19 year olds applying for Higher Education was 319,100.

ucas5

The number of actual live Higher Apprenticeship vacancies in June 2017 when these young people were finishing their education courses or gap years and becoming available to the labour market? 590.

apprenticeship vacancies in june

To suggest that young people should take the apprenticeship route to protect against the waning wage benefit of graduate salaries is blindly ignoring the biggest hurdle facing those young people. There are nowhere near enough apprenticeship opportunities at that level for them to pursue.

4. Young people are registering on “Find an Apprenticeship” and applying for Apprenticeships in far greater numbers than the vacancies available

16-18 year olds are by the far the largest age group to register to be able to apply for Apprenticeship vacancies. 254,250 have registered in the year to date so far well on the way to the 280,200 who signed up in 15/16.

apprenticeship registrations by age1

This age group has, so far this year, gone on to make 939,630 applications.

apprenticeship registrations by age

5. We know that Apprenticeship employers favour hiring older applicants.

In 2015 Ofsted found that, “Under 19s made 56% of applications but only 27% of starts; 25+ made 7% of applications but 37% of starts” and that employers were reluctant to take on younger apprenticeship applicants as:

  • They believed too many 16-year-old school leavers lacked personal
    presentation and communication skills, or gave the impression at interview
    that they were immature and unreliable.
  • They recognised that employing an apprentice required a significant
    investment in time to train them in the generic employability skills and did
    not feel they could afford this.

To recap, over a quarter of a millon 16-18 year olds are making over 900,000 applications, going up against 262,970 other 18+ applicants for 169, 290 apprenticeship vacancies. 

Let’s go back to those survey figures from the ECA, using the 2016 Schools, Pupils and their Characteristics national tables data we can see that there were 1,549,000 15-18 year olds in English schools last academic year. 8% of this figure is 123,920 pupils that self reported that they were being advised to attempt to secure an apprenticeship. The total number of apprenticeships advertised so far this year is 169,298, so, in reality, the pipeline of young people being advised to take this route is proportionate to the number of vacancies on offer.

All of this shows there is already far greater interest in apprenticeships from that age group than there is base line opportunities. The Director of the ECA, and others, need to acknowledge that the challenge for apprenticeship recruitment for young people is not a lack of awareness or knowledge of the route but

  1. A lack of support with the whole application process from on line form to interview
  2. A lack of work experience building opportunities
  3. A lack of social capital to source opportunities

And that is the work that takes time, qualified staff and funded resources all of which are much more difficult to understand, lobby for or support than just taking the easy option of bashing careers advice for not giving out information.

How companies can help with social mobility

Themes rise and fall in education news land. Recently the topic of social mobility has risen to the top of the education news wave leaving stories of shrinking school budgets, degree grade inflation and the lack of support for pupils mental well-being sinking to the bottom.

Ahead of the curve was the Sutton Trust who released a report co-authored with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility entitled “The class ceiling: Increasing access to the leading professions” which laid bare (again, after previous work from the Social Mobility Commission) the static nature of social mobility in the UK. We are a nation where the privilege and wealth of your parents directly dictates the privilege and wealth you will enjoy.

Much of the subsequent press follow up concerned itself with the recruitment practices of employers that favour young people from well off backgrounds such as unpaid internships while the report took a bigger picture view of the wider education & employment system.

CEIAG and recent careers policy got lots of attention with a careful eye laid on the progress of the Careers & Enterprise Company

and plenty of stakeholder opinion on the quality of careers advice in schools. Much of the state of careers commentary is echoes of all that has gone before so it was the sections which looked at what steps business could take to change the situation which I found interesting.

  1. The use of Contextualized recruitment by firms such as Deloitte places an applicant’s academic achievement in the context of the institution and wider community in which they achieved this.
  2. The move away from traditional academic routes into the professions and toward new, work based schemes even in professional areas such as Law. CILex the example given.
  3. Open competition for young people to apply to work experience placements so not to insulate benefits seen by friends and families of employees. I’ve linked on this blog before on the general lack of work experience opportunities offered by business.
  4. To be involved in Mentoring programmes, which will give much power to the Careers & Enterprise Company’s new scheme.
  5. Local targeting of deprived areas and schools with the work of the companies on the Government’s Social Mobility Compact (no, I’d never heard of it either) praised for their work with (mostly) London schools
  6. Unconscious bias training to aid impartiality in recruitment although the example of practice given in the report is from the Civil Service so, as it’s not private sector, I don’t really think it should count here.
  7. The collection and publication of data on the socio-economic backgrounds of employees with the data collected by the Solicitors Regulation Authority given as an example.

These are all praiseworthy and socially responsible efforts by the private sector to, in small ways, stick an oar of movement into the static pool of social mobility in the UK.

Reading this report coincided for me in the same week as seeing a presentation on an EY summer work experience summer scheme called “Smart Futures.” A paid work experience scheme for Year 12 students, this is a fantastic opportunity that would excite many young people. EY though, are aiming the programme at pupils who have been

Eligible for free school meals at some point in the past six years

which is an altruistic and well intentioned clause but, as many of the other schemes and ideas mentioned above also do, it fails to take into account a hard reality of the educational progress and attainment of disadvantaged students by the time they reach this age.

In 15/16 43% of disadvantaged pupils gained A-C’s in GCSE English & Maths compared to 70% of all other pupils while 37% of disadvantaged pupils achieved 5 A-C’s compared to 65% of all other pupils.

At Key Stage 2, 39% of disadvantaged pupils reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths while 60% of other pupils do.

In fact, disadvantaged pupils are already 8 months of learning behind their peers when they start school.

To tackle this, companies that truly wish to make an impact on social mobility should step away from their own comfort zones and deal with very young people and families in settings perhaps they have not so far ventured into. The Smart Futures programme is delivered through EY’s charitable arm The EY Foundation. It would require strong leadership but, ultimately, a bigger structural impact on their investment would be found from, for example, offering small scale, localised provisions to fill the gaps that the closures to large numbers of Sure Start and children’s centres is leaving.

 

State of the (careers) nation SMCP report

In the dying embers of 2015 the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission released their annual “State of the Nation” report which included numerous references to careers work in schools and how, as part of a wider raft of measures, this work could restart the mobility engine of the UK.

So, as the new year and the new term is already chugging along at full steam, a reminder of why we do what we do and some ideas for what we could be involved with.

So, the UK’s current situation is not good

smcp 1

The report is clear that the current school accountability system is not conducive to placing an importance on careers work

smcp2

The report calls for a strengthening of this accountability measure including

• A new destinations measure, which relates all students’ outcomes post-18 to their secondary school, regardless of whether or not they conducted their post-16 study at the same institution. Government should seek to use new data-linking models to build in data on the destinations of students who are not in higher education post-19.

Interesting, the report also takes a stab at the continual problem of the ‘chicken and egg’ scenario undermining non HE routes in the UK

Today non-graduates tend to come from low income backgrounds and often end up in low pay, low-progression careers. There is a jungle of qualifications, courses and institutions which students find hard to penetrate. Quality is variable and there is little or no visibility about outcomes. Nor is the system working as well as it should for the economy with skills shortages in precisely those areas – construction, technical and scientific skills – that vocational education is supposed to supply. Unlike higher education, where the cap on student numbers has been lifted, there is more demand for apprenticeships than there are places and a dramatic under-supply of higher-level apprenticeships.

smcp3

In short, there are too few top apprenticeship opportunities, and they are not shared fairly. The lack of top-end, non-graduate options reduces the attractiveness of the route, despite some leading to better earnings than university degrees. So most of the brightest young people simply opt out of this route altogether. Young people who do well in exams at the point of the 16-plus choose the A level option because they believe it is better. This is reinforced by teachers, parents and careers advisers. It has led to the current situation where the non-graduate track is perceived as a route for those who are less capable.

The incessant call from bodies such as the CBI and the AoC for schools to promote apprenticeships better should be heard and relate squarely to the accountability measures issue mentioned above but a bigger target remains. To misquote a great movie, “build it and they will come” is surely now the objective for the apprenticeship route.

The report also looks at the gap in participation in HE and is particularly scathing about the gap at selective universities

smcp4

Lots of recommendations are made for both the state and the private sector which CEIAG work can and should support.

For schools:

Recommendation 2: The Government should make clear its absolute commitment to narrowing the educational attainment gap at a national level and confirm it by launching a new set of social mobility measures at a national, local authority and school level.

For the vocational sector:

Recommendation 1: New apprenticeships should be targeted at higher-level courses and young people: there should be 30,000 young people starting a higher-level apprenticeship a year by 2020.

Recommendation 2: A new UCAS-style website should be created for vocational education within two years so that young people can see what progression, employment and earnings opportunities they are likely to achieve.

Recommendation 4: By 2020 the Government should reduce the NEET rates of 16–18-year-olds to 3 per cent or less (or around 55,000), in line with the best performing OECD countries. This should be underpinned by a new social investment fund worth around £50 million to pay for the successful outcomes of NEET prevention schemes

For the graduate sector:

Recommendation 1: The Government’s widening participation commitment requires around 12,000 more students from low participation areas to enter HE in 2020 compared to today. To ensure outreach activity accelerates to meet this vision, 5 per cent of universities’ widening participation funding – around £40 million – should be ringfenced for collaborative action and coordinated by OFFA and the new Office for Students.

Recommendation 2: The Government should create a single online portal for young people to access public sector internships by 2017.

In the week that maintenance grants for the poorest students were scrapped, how much attention will Government pay to such suggestions or how much impact their own policy ideas will have, will have to wait to be seen.