English and maths entry requirements for intermediate and advanced apprenticeships are preventing many young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, from accessing apprenticeships.
Research by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) is calling on government to provide financial incentives for training providers and employers to encourage them to take on young people who do not have grade 4 or above in GCSE English and maths and to support them to achieve this level.
The report, Equalising access to apprenticeships, says that such incentives would reflect the higher costs and potential risks associated with taking on these apprentices.
NFER research director and co-author of the report, Suzanne Straw, said:“Our research highlights that numerous barriers exist which deter many young people – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds – from starting apprenticeships. If the government is serious about creating ‘opportunities to all’, it needs to focus on more effectively tackling these barriers.
“For apprenticeships to be an accessible route for young people, particularly those who are most disadvantaged, it is essential the government provides the appropriate financial incentives to training providers, colleges and employers to take on more young people who have not already achieved a Level 2 in English and maths.”
Apprenticeship entry requirements
Apprenticeship reforms over the past decade have led to a substantial decline in the number of intermediate and advanced apprenticeships started.
The impact of this decline has been felt unevenly, with young people and those from disadvantaged communities of all ages particularly affected.
The report highlights how low wages are a barrier to the recruitment and retention of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds on apprenticeships, adding that high travel costs may discourage many from applying for more specialised opportunities not available in their local area. These barriers, the report says, will likely worsen under the current cost of living crisis.
The NFER is calling on the government to extend the 16-19 bursary fund to apprentices so it could be subsidise travel costs for apprentices from disadvantaged backgrounds and help mitigate the current inequalities in apprenticeship access.
The report also recommends that the Government review the current national minimum wage for apprentices. “While the national minimum wage for apprenticeships was increased from £4.30 to £4.81 in April 2022, it remains very low. In light of current cost of living increases, the government should review the appropriate level of the minimum apprenticeship wage,” says the report.
The NFER also said that traineeships require “urgent review”. While these short training programmes – which aim to support young people to progress onto an apprenticeship or employment – are intended to help young people tackle a range of barriers to accessing apprenticeships and develop the necessary skills and capabilities, they do not appear to be doing this successfully.
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