Whilst some good news has been emerging over recent months about increasing numbers of new jobs in the private sector, the number of young people Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEETs) has remained depressingly high and still hovers around the 1 million mark.
So why is it that at a time when we may genuinely be starting to come out of recession and at a time when in 2011, over 370,000 jobs in the UK went to people from overseas, our young people are unable to find employment? Sadly I believe that the answer lies mainly in the fact that they simply don’t have the skills that are required by employers in the 21st century. Unless we can address that issue, we run the risk of creating a huge cohort of people who will not be unemployed, they will be unemployable. We live in a global marketplace and the jobs and opportunities that they should be getting will be going to their peers from around the world who possess the relevant skills.
With that in mind, I welcome the introduction of Traineeships or “Study Programmes” which are due to be launched later this year. These programmes are designed to ensure that young people are fully prepared for work, partly by providing them with the appropriate level of basic Functional Skills in English, Maths and ICT, but also by helping them to develop their interviewing and other personal work skills.
If Traineeships are going to succeed where other programmes have failed, then it is essential that employers are fully involved in the scheme from the outset. Moreover, my hope is that Traineeships will be strongly linked to the Apprenticeship programme rather than just being seen as another unrelated initiative. I envisage a scenario where FE colleges and private training providers work closely with relevant employers to develop a sector-specific Traineeship with guaranteed interviews at the end of the training with employers in the sector. Moreover, any successful applicant would be given an automatic place on the employer’s Apprenticeship programme.
By operating in this way, Traineeships will not only lead to a genuine job opportunity in a specific sector, they will act as a much needed bridge to the Apprenticeship programme, thereby not simply providing a job, but offering the chance of a career.
As Training Providers like ourselves start to develop plans to deliver Traineeships, it is essential that the government provides early information on funding. The government made a huge mistake in setting funding levels for Functional Skills far too low thereby simply making these essential qualifications unprofitable to deliver. To be fair, the problem was recognised and rectified very quickly and it is important that we don’t make the same mistake with Traineeships. We need a separate funding pool (not just a redistribution of existing funds) and we need levels to be set which will encourage the very best providers to engage with the scheme.
One of my Twitter followers said how much he hated the term “NEET” and proposed “GREET” (Getting Ready for Employment, Education and Training) as an alternative. I think that’s a great idea and perhaps that it is how we should refer to people who take up a Traineeship.