Manufacturers know the important role young people can and do play in their businesses. So much so that half of respondents to a recent EEF survey said they offered Apprenticeships to young people to get them into the industry and three-quarters of companies take on apprentices generally between the ages of 16 and 18.
But whilst many young people are, as one manufacturing employer told me, ‘the lifeblood of the firm' there will always be some employers who find young people coming to them unprepared for the world of work. Such views are not uncommon, with many reports and our own anecdotal evidence suggesting that this is a real issue.
So what can be done to resolve this?
The government's response so far has been the Youth Contract, which as EEF has spoken about before, has not had a lot of traction with the manufacturing industry. (Only 1% had engaged with the scheme to access £2275 to take on a young unemployed person for example).
We recommended in our Skills for Growth report to focus more of the funding towards Apprenticeships and work experience which manufacturers are far more enthusiastic about.
In the Richard Review of Apprenticeships, Doug Richard suggested that the government introduce a new separate work-based programme to support entry into employment, which would replace some Level 2 apprenticeships. This would not only tackle the issue of being work (or apprenticeship) ready but would also mean we were raising our ambitions on apprenticeships, focusing on higher-level skills.
Then, during a speech in November 2012, Skills Minister Matthew Hancock MP stated that one of his four key priorities going forward would be ‘traineeships'. This seemed very much in response to Richard's thinking. If we are to raise the standard of Apprenticeships there will be a gap, which will need to be filled.
Hancock announced a traineeship would include "a rigorous core of work preparation, work experience, maths and English."
This was then confirmed in the Mid-Term Review which stated, “We will introduce traineeships to support young people into work.”
That sounds pretty good to me.
Our own findings revealed that 76% of employers prioritise maths and English qualifications when recruiting Apprentices, so that is one box ticked. Almost six in ten manufacturers said that they struggled to fill vacancies because applicants lacked relevant work experience, so potentially that's another box ticked. And we all know that the perception of recruiting young people is they are simply unprepared for work so that's the final box ticked.
But let's not leave it at that.
Traineeships should be a gateway into higher-level Apprenticeships, further and higher education or permanent employment.
They should be the beginning and not the end. Both the work experience and work preparation elements of the model must be relevant to industry, so success is dependent on government working closely with employers on the development and implementation of traineeships. If this is done effectively we may have begun to unravel a package that really does deliver.