The Government has scrapped its flagship pre-employment skills programme following years of low starts, it has been confirmed.  Reports that emerged on 10 and 11 December were confirmed by skills minister Robert Halfon in a written ministerial statement in the House of Commons on Thursday 15 December 2022.  Halfon said: “The traineeship programme has been running for nearly 10 years and the number of starts has remained relatively low.  It is right, therefore, that we focus our offer on our mainstream provision.  This change will make it easier for young people and employers to navigate our skills offer and will enable providers to better tailor their programmes to deliver the key skills needed to drive growth in local communities.”

From 01 August 2023, provision previously delivered through the traineeships programme will be “integrated” into 16-19 study programmes for young people and the non-devolved adult education budget for adults.  Mayors with devolved skills powers will decide what’s best for their areas, the statement says.  Official figures published last month showed there were 15,500 traineeship starts recorded in 2020/21, just 36% of the 43,000 target.  It comes despite the Treasury investing £126 million in traineeships in 2021/22 and £111 million being pumped into the pre-employment programme the year before, when 17,400 starts were recorded against a target of 36,700.  Halfon points to “great alternatives” to traineeships, “such as T Levels and the T Level transition programme, bootcamps, apprenticeships, and sector-based work academies.”

Introduced as a flagship pre-employability programme in 2013, eligible 16 to 24-year-olds were funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency for pre-employment training and unpaid work placements from six weeks to one year, although most last for less than six months.  But traineeship starts have been on a rapid decline, from a high of 24,100 in 2015/16 down to just 12,100 in 2019/20.  Ministers saw traineeships as a good route to help get young people back into training and work after the Covid-19 pandemic and decided to back the programme with more funding.

Officials have made numerous pleas with traineeship providers to rapidly boost their recruitment over the past two years.  But providers have often warned that the lack of learner incentive means that traineeships are currently limited to those willing and able to take on a placement without getting paid.  Others have argued that other government programmes that do offer payment, like Kickstart and apprenticeships, have systematically displaced traineeships.