A new programme needed for disadvantaged young people

In the coming year, according to the LSC's own plans, more than a quarter of all young people engaged in work-based learning will not receive their training through a Modern Apprenticeship (MA) Framework. At any one time, just over 80,000 young people will be enrolled in Lifeskills, Preparatory Training, VQ level 1 training or on non-framework courses leading to VQ levels 2 or 3. Until now, this has been banded together under the general title of Other Training (OT) which the Government says should be replaced by September 2002.

The task of replacing OT has two parts:

That is why the DfEE is putting most of its efforts into devising a new ‘sub-NVQ level 2 training’ initiative. Alongside general advice from the new Modern Apprenticeship Advisory Committee, a 15-strong working group has been established to steer this project. ALP provider members make up one-third of the working group, including two ALP Board members, Paul Convery and Peter Little. This puts ALP providers at the heart of the development process and offers an excellent opportunity to press the case for a candidate focused pre-apprenticeship programme which is workable for providers and employers as well as forming an integral part of Apprenticeship progression.

The Government is right to demand higher standards to boost the reputation of work based learning for young people. OT has often been seen as a poorer substitute for the full MA framework. Whilst Foundation MA and Advanced MA under-recruit young people from ethnic minority backgrounds, OT disproportionately over-recruits; sustained job entry rates for OT participants are almost half that for MA leavers.

So, replacing elements of OT that constitute the remnants of the ‘failed Youth Training scheme’ commands widespread support. But, the current programme plays a significant part in attracting young people and adults into life long learning. Despite being under-funded compared with the MA programme, it has retained its attraction to employers and learners, particularly those engaged in service sector occupations such as customer care, retail and catering.

Within a rapidly growing labour market many young people who have not prospered within the traditional education system are strongly attracted to directly enter work at 16 or 17. A proportion of these young people have been disaffected by formal learning and are hesitant about entering a full MA framework. OT has provided a step back into learning for this group.

Not only has OT provided the only effective learning option for some young people, it is also a programme that extends learning into areas of the labour market ill-suited to the MA frameworks. These jobs are often part time, or in front line service sector roles. It has also provided the first step on the qualifications ladder for many older employees who have few or no formal qualifications. This is particularly true for many 19-24 year olds who have entered the labour market directly without engaging in learning.

Another major factor is the limited enthusiasm shown by many employers towards Key Skills. Large national firms with excellent reputations for training staff do not see the relevance of Key Skills for many of their front line staff. Key Skills at level 1 could form an optional part of the replacement programme to facilitate progression to a full MA framework.

The AMA and FMA frameworks and Learning Gateway programmes have already substantially replaced the youth training provision of previous years. With FMA frameworks already extended to cover more sectors and the trainee endorsement process re-engineered, we expect more participants will follow the Apprenticeship route. However, the DfEE must develop a pre-apprenticeship programme that retains many of these features of OT as an integral part of the funded qualifications mix available to learners.

Ironically, whilst the DfEE aims to abolish OT-style stand-alone VQ2 and VQ3 provision delivered by work based learning providers, it may end up re-creating just such a programme. FE colleges currently deliver large volumes of stand-alone VQs which have historically been funded by the FEFC. If the Government uses its level playing field principle, then from September 2002, non-FE institutions should be able to bid to the LSC for this type of provision.