The launch of the OECD report: Building Skills for All has highlighted improving transitions into the workplace as a key priority area to support young people to be successful in the labour market.
In the UK, 5 million people are working in low paid jobs – and many of those have been there for a long time, with only 1 in 4 people who were in low pay in 2001 having moved out of low pay by 2011. There are a number of important issues underlying this problem, but the lack of clear and intuitive pathways from education into work is one that needs tackling now.
Around 1 in 10 young adults with low skills in the UK combines work with study, which is much lower than many other countries. This figure includes all those young people who are working in jobs unrelated to their study, as well as apprentices, who make up a much higher proportion in countries such as Germany and Austria. We need to develop pathways for those young people who choose not to take a traditional academic route – both to meet the aspirations of those individuals, as well as to meet the skills gaps identified by employers in the recent Employer Skills Survey.
Building Skills for All acknowledges that these pathways are currently relatively underdeveloped in the UK, with only 6% of young people choosing to undertake an apprenticeship in 2014/15.
At Learning and Work Institute we are working to improve pathways for young people in a number of ways. We believe that apprenticeships should offer an attractive and highly regarded alternative to traditional routes, rather than being considered as a low quality option. That means we need to assure young people, as well as parents and employers of the quality standard that an apprenticeship should represent. That’s why we’re working to develop the Apprentice Charter quality mark, to celebrate those employers who are offering exceptional opportunities.
We’re also working to ensure that there are a new, clear set of pathways into apprenticeships by developing the government’s traineeship programme. Working together with the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), we have developed Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths traineeships which support people to access apprenticeships in local industries facing skills gaps, and into sustainable future careers.
We’re now working to expand that project alongside the new National High Speed Rail College, working in Doncaster and Birmingham to provide local people with the tools to make the most of new opportunities in skills and employment in their area.
We’re also developing new sector-specific traineeship routes, developing a model that helps to smooth the transition from education to work for young people with low skills – ensuring we’re truly building skills for all.