How can traineeships support employers through the recruitment crisis?

Blog posts

17 Aug 2022

Olivia Garner, Research Officer
Rosie Gloster, Principal Research Fellow

Livy GarnerRosie Gloster

Employers are currently facing skill and labour shortages. Recent growth in vacancies means recruitment is increasingly difficult, with more job vacancies than there are people unemployed for the first time in living memory.

Meanwhile, young people are finding their feet after being hit hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic. In the 12 months following the onset of the pandemic, people aged 16-24 accounted for 54 per cent of all job losses. Previous pathways to work became less accessible and in January 2021, overall apprenticeship starts were down 18 per cent on the preceding year.

The government responded to this labour market shock with its Plan for Jobs which included extended and more flexible traineeships. IES and Ipsos carried out an evaluation of the changes for the Department for Education. The evaluation included interviews with training providers, employers and trainees. As recruitment for the Kickstart initiative closed at the end of March 2022, we consider whether traineeships might offer an alternative to generate the skills young people and employers need.

What are traineeships and who are they for?

Traineeships have been integral to tackling youth unemployment since 2013 by supporting young people aged 16-24 (or aged 25 and with an Education and Health Care Plan) to move into work or an apprenticeship through training and sector specific work experience. They have been increasing in prevalence – there were 17,400 traineeship starts recorded in 2020/21, an increase of 44 per cent from 2019/20.

Traineeships are seen as a useful option for young people who require support in developing their core skills; and are well-suited to learners who might find it difficult to enter employment or an apprenticeship directly. Flexibilities help give learners a personalised programme of support, including diverse groups of young people e.g. those with special educational needs or a disability.

In response to the pandemic, new flexibilities were brought in to broaden the reach of the programme for employers and young people. These flexibilities included extending eligibility to include young people with prior qualifications at level 3, and a lower minimum duration for work placements. The following graphic outlines the new offer for trainees:

Benefits for employers and young people

New flexibilities enabled providers to tailor programmes to the needs of young people and employers, helping employers accommodate trainees in a range of settings, including for example, offering remote placements. Employers ranged from small to large organisations in sectors including IT, hospitality, agriculture, health and others.

Employers expressed high levels of satisfaction with offering a trainee work placement, with motivations and benefits including:

  • Helping meet workforce training needs – e.g. training a young person to a bespoke role within a business and potential progression to an apprenticeship.
  • ‘Try before you buy’ apprenticeship - a trainee placement requires less initial commitment in terms of wages and length of placement than an apprenticeship. It therefore allows employers to test the match of the candidate for a role/apprenticeship.
  • The incentive of £1,000 offered to employers per trainee taken on (capped at 10 per employer in each English region). Some employers used this to purchase necessary equipment for trainees or pay them expenses.
  • Supporting corporate social responsibility (CSR) agendas, or the diversification of the workforce.
  • Insight into offering training and work opportunities for young people.
  • Trainees play a positive role in supporting business operations.

Trainees saw the programme as providing a path to meaningful employment, especially where the pandemic made it difficult to secure an apprenticeship or employment, and were confident they could use their new skills, qualifications, and experience to find opportunities for work or further education. It was common for trainees to plan to work in the same field as their traineeship, and successfully secured apprenticeships with their work placement employer (see case-study). 

Example of trainee progression to an apprenticeship

A trainee who recently completed the traineeship held a Level 3 IT qualification from college. They were looking for an apprenticeship in IT, as they enjoy hands on learning, but were struggling to find one on their own. They found the IT traineeship attractive as they hoped it would be a pathway to an apprenticeship, and undertook the traineeship alongside a part-time job in a restaurant. Through their work placement they gained beneficial hands-on experience of working for an IT support company, vocational skills in computer repair, and became more confident in communication. The training provider supported them with employability skills, suggesting improvements to their CV and applications. At the end of the traineeship the training provider helped them apply successfully for an apprenticeship with another IT support company.

Questions to consider

Traineeships have the potential to contribute to post-pandemic economic recovery by addressing skills shortages. New flexibilities broaden the opportunities available to employers.

Employers interested in offering traineeships should consider the following:

  • Do you want to build a pipeline of trainees for apprenticeships/employment?
  • Would you be able to provide a trainee with a valuable work experience opportunity that would help them become apprenticeship/work ready?
  • Would your organisation benefit from offering a traineeship as a lower risk alternative to an apprenticeship, giving the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’?
  • How could traineeships be incorporated into your CSR and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion objectives?
  • How could you use the £1000 incentive to support a (potentially inexperienced) trainee to engage in varied tasks and learning and development opportunities for 70-100 hours?
  • Are you able to support the young person with placement-related costs, such as travel or lunch expenses?

Our evaluation found many and varied benefits of traineeships, both for employers and trainees. As recruitment into the Kickstart initiative has come to a close, employers new to supporting young people might now consider whether traineeships are a desirable alternative to generate the skills and talent pipeline they need. 

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Any views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Institute as a whole.