Apprenticeships should be opened up to single parents

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Most single parents are being locked out of apprenticeships because of a lack of part-time opportunities and the difficulty of supporting children with such low pay. 

Single parents make ideal candidates to take up apprenticeships, according to charity Gingerbread, but significant evidence has been found of barriers that inhibit them from accessing and progressing in these schemes.

Gingerbread’s report, Making Apprenticeships and Traineeships Work for Single Parents, has found that the proportion of single parents in the UK on apprenticeship schemes is very low and that those who are on them are doing so as part of their existing jobs.

Barriers include the lack of advertised flexible vacancies, low pay and a lack of matched childcare. Additionally many of the apprenticeship opportunities are “too narrow” for many women.

The report also suggests that the government aspires to increase the accessibility of schemes to people who wish to work fewer than 30 hours but states that this has not yet translated into an increase in advertised part-time apprenticeships on the government’s website.

Laura Dewar, policy officer at Gingerbread, said there was little evidence that the government’s focus on apprenticeships and traineeships had had a significant impact on single parents and had effectively ignored single parents’ desire for work.

She said: “With the clock ticking on their target of getting three million people into schemes by 2020 the government has missed an open goal by making apprenticeship schemes incompatible with single parents’ lives and commitments.”

Gingerbread made four key recommendations to the government:

  • The Department for Work and Pensions should prioritise increasing the skill level of single parents with pre-school children aged three and four
  • Career and skills support should be provided to all single parents who move onto job-seeking benefits, encompassing part-time skills training and support with childcare. This should include opening up access to the extended 30-hour childcare offer to those undertaking a traineeship
  • Further work should be undertaken to test approaches to incentivising companies to take on single parent apprentices, including subsidising participation, promoting part-time opportunities and other innovative ideas.

The charity also called on ministers to scrap the existing apprenticeship target, which measures apprenticeship starts, and introduce more nuanced indicators measuring apprenticeship quality, the availability of part-time opportunities and the proportion of external recruits.

The government has missed an open goal by making apprenticeship schemes incompatible with single parents’ lives and commitments” – Laura Dewar, Gingerbread

Gingerbread’s report heralds pockets of good practice, for example, the Camden Apprenticeship Pilot for Parents and the Civil Service commitment to opening up more part-time apprenticeship opportunities.

However, the charity maintains that single parents are disproportionately concentrated in low paid work and research has shown that once in these jobs, this is where they stay. Apprenticeships and traineeships are one potential route for single parents to increase their skills levels and work experience, and thus their ability to secure better-paid and more sustainable work.

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