Apprenticeships: A point of view from a Careers Adviser in school


First up; some data.

The most recent year that we have complete data for destinations in Luton is 2011 leavers.

In November of 2011, 12 out of 2546 school leavers in Luton were in an Apprenticeship route. My school had supplied 5 of those. By the Spring of 2012 when another check had been completed the total number had jumped to 37, with 7 coming from Stopsley High.

If we go back to students who left High school in 2008, in Spring 2012 115 were in Apprenticeships. The figures are similar for 2009 leavers.

There are two strands from these figures that I blog about here:

Our Apprenticeship education and IAG programme in school:

Our Careers Education input about Apprenticeships starts in Year 10 with lessons like this

which are generic lessons designed to get students talking about the route and more comfortable with the mix of learning and earning involved.

Since using social media to connect to organisations, I’ve realised there are lots of online resources out there to help so the onus is now on schools to organise these into what they need and then find curriculum time to deliver to students.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone of our  KS4 students will be able to tell you all of the ins and outs of an apprenticeship framework but we try and get the core message across to classes at first and then individually later on.

A massive part of the disconnect with young people and Apprenticeships is the lack of knowledge about them in the general teaching community. We use a wide range of teachers to deliver our Careers education programme so the skills base will be variable and many teachers would be finding out about the route as they deliver the session. There are positives to this as you are automatically spreading the knowledge amongst staff but there is an onus on the Careers lead in schools to help prepare staff to deliver these types of lessons.

Into Year 11:

By this time, face to face IAG sessions are taking place and the students who are interested in the idea of an Apprenticeship are beginning to be known.

We have a white board in our room on which we update possible Apprenticeship route students and their areas of interest and so the contact with home can begin.

We have a great contact at Bedford College who comes in to lead a session in which the students sign up to the NAS site and begin their plan of action of which companies to approach with calls, letters and C.Vs. Our Year 11 Careers fair is also full of apprenticeship providers and employers raising the profile of the route with students. Parents are given a dedicated Apprenticeship presentation at Year 11 revision evening.

As a Careers team, our responsibility is then to be on the look out for every possible opportunity. To keep checking websites, to look on twitter and be on every mailing list we can to be ahead of the game when large scale companies announce their Apprenticeship schemes and to be clued into local links when smaller businesses might have an opportunity.

It’s fair to say though, even with this work, a large amount of possible Apprenticeships come to us through contacts students and their families have made, sometimes on work experience in Year 10, sometimes just through networks of friends.

From this point on it’s a matter of chase, chase, chase. Chasing students to see what contacts they’re making in their own time, chasing parents to pass on online application links and chasing students again to make sure they have called back that plasterer who said it might be taking someone on.

And the chase continues right to the summer break and even beyond. Another aspect which puts youngsters off Apprenticeships is the uncertainty. With a College application it’s all done by Easter, you know what course you would do, what grades you would need and exactly where you’ll be going come September. Chasing an Apprenticeship means putting yourself out there, open for rejection (something teenagers aren’t good at) and with a greater possibility that you won’t get what you want while the majority of your peers have their future seemingly all sorted.

Not that this is a bad thing. Sometimes the path between school and College/Sixth Form can be all too smooth for students and the idea of actually applying for something that they might not get can scare them away from even participating. If we really are committed to training young people for the world of work then surely part of that is applying for jobs and not getting them which happens lots with Apprenticeships at 16.

A bit about those Luton statistics:

It’s not a lot at all is it? 12 out of 1246.

All the headlines are that the total numbers of Apprenticeships are rising but this isn’t the case for starts for under 19s

and that is reflected in the Luton statistics above.

The Government know this is an issue which is why they have floated the idea of ‘Traineeships” as a king of pre Apprenticeship filler

but more learning, no work can’t be the whole answer. I believe there is a need for dedicated school leaver apprenticeship routes at 16, and lots of them. Whatever National Apprenticeship Week can do to increase opportunities will be fantastic because we’ve got about 25 students this year who have expressed an interest in an Apprenticeship. Because Sixth Form feels too much like school to them, because they feel pressure at home to start earning money or because we’ve promoted a great route to them, that’s the path they would prefer and next year, I’m sure that number will rise.

Now, not many of them will get one straight out of school, some will continue applying and will find a placement while at College and some will have given up long before then. But it would be great if more than 5 had an Apprenticeship sorted by November and that’s what now needs to catch up. The demand is there, I can’t promise you the skills are consistent across all those potential applicants but we’re spreading the word and the young people are coming.

Traineeships – post 16 Work Related Learning for those who need it

Another week, another new announcement from the Dfe. This week, it’s the Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock, who gets to use the Department’s Telegraph Education Section batphone and announce a new initiative. In fact, as the Telegraph Education Editor is called Graeme Paton, I wonder if the Manadrins at the Dfe call it the “Pat-phone.”

The Department is proposing a new Post 16 route called “Traineeships” for young people who are not ready for the world of work and learning that modern Apprenticeships demand.

The consultation document is here:

and I would encourage everyone who works in IAG for young people to respond or at least consider the important issues it raises.

After reading it part of me did despair. It was, after all, this government that did away with the statutory requirement for schools to provide Work Related Learning to students and yet here they are proposing a Post 16 route offering with employment skills and work placements as they clearly feel there is demand for such skills.

The questions to consider in the consultation are below. There’s some I don’t have the experience to answer so I’ve not offered anything on those. As ever would be interested to hear your thoughts.

Question 1: What are your views on the elements that are essential for an

effective programme to support young people to prepare for

Apprenticeships and other jobs?

I think your proposed model is a solid starting point. Time and time again business organisations such as the CBI have asked for the education establishment to make concrete strides to establish programs to enhance the soft skills which they so desire alongside actual real world work experience. I am also encouraged by the inclusion of careers guidance in the flexible support strand – equipping this cohort of young people with the skills to manage their own career research and decisions would be an extremely valuable investment.

Question 2: Should a guaranteed interview be part of the core content of

a Traineeship?

Yes – employer input would be clearly beneficial here but as long as the scheme provider was able to organise a suitable person who was new to the young people this would be close enough to reality for the activity to work. I would also encourage the use of videos on websites such as Monster interview to help young people prepare.

Question 3: What makes work placements high quality and effective?

The employer being able to spare time to assist the young person. Young people soon see through placements in which they have been hired as cheap labour to perform repetitive and basic tasks and quickly become demotivated. Regular visits to the placements from the Traineeship provider need to be part of the quality control. Of course the young people’s expectations need to managed so I would suggest that Traineeship providers are asked to be upfront and clear about the work placements they are able to source.

Question 4: Are you aware of other evidence from existing programmes

that demonstrates the effectiveness of these elements?

Question 5: How could Traineeships best complement what is already

available for young people, simplify our offer and avoid unnecessary


Many schools and FE Colleges provide excellent schemes of Work Related Learning and, despite funding cuts, many schools still offer work experience in KS4. The cohort of young people that Traineeships are seemingly to be aimed at needs to be clear to all stakeholders and local providers will need to communicate clearly with both schools, Colleges and Local Authority guidance services so the right young people are signposted to their provision.

Question 6: What are your views on the proposed Traineeships model?

Are the core components right? Is the balance between flexibility and

specification correct?

This is very similar to question 1. Although I would caution you to learn from the experience of past Apprenticeships funding rules which allowed explotation of the system. The positve changes in the regulations to secure a higher quality of offer for young people should be repeated with Traineeships.

Question 7: What are your views on the right age range for the

programme (Paragraph 21)?

The age range seems logical. I would point out though that if Traineeships are to last 6 months, then a young person completing the course soon after school might find themselves between provisions. Many FE courses don’t start until the new academic year in September and once young people have been out of formal learning or training for a period it can be much harder to re-engage them.

Question 8: What are your views on the right duration for the programme

(Paragraph 24)?

And yet, extending the elements of the scheme would be testing on both the patience of young people keen to start what they perceive as the ‘real’ Apprenticeship and the financial backing of their parents. Substanial support would need to be in place to ensure that drop out rates are sky high if the scheme is stretched longer than 6 months.

Question 9: What other elements of flexible content would you expect to

be added to the core locally?

UTC’s and Studio Schools have already shown that local employers can take a fundamental involvement in local education provision and they have built on local contacts that FE colleges and Sixth Forms had already established. Perhaps Traineeship providers can be encouraged to utilise such links and even base some of their work related elements at these facilities where available.

Question 10: What are your views on the most effective routes for

delivering Traineeships? Do the funding systems set out in Paragraph 27

provide sufficient flexibility to achieve this?

Question 11: How can we ensure that Traineeships are a high quality

route which delivers real progression for young people but minimises

bureaucracy for employers and providers (Paragraph 30)?

Question 12: The success of Traineeships will rely on employers offering

high quality work placements. How can we best support and encourage

employers to offer these? What will employers see as the benefits of being

involved in Traineeships?

There are already a number of financial incentives for employers to offer Apprenticeships. Perhaps these could be increased on a sliding scale when employers accept a young person onto one of their Apprenticeship schemes after the young person has successfully completed a Traineeship with them thus providing an incentive for employers to properly invest in the long term continuous development of young people.