16–18-year-olds in UK – Making the apprenticeship system work

Too many 16–18-year-olds are studying level 2 courses that do not help them progress to higher levels of vocational education or start a successful career. This is contributing to England’s relatively high levels of youth unemployment, as many young people struggle to make the transition from education to work.

The current system of vocational education does not provide the right balance between ‘earning and learning’ for this group of young people. There is a particular problem with level 2 apprenticeships, which are not currently well designed to meet the needs of 16–18-year-olds: they are often very job specific, they do not include much off-the-job training, they only last one year, and – from next year – they will not be required to include a recognised qualification. The current system therefore falls short of the recommendations of the recent Sainsbury review of technical education. This review called for level 2 programmes for 16–18-year-olds that last two years, have a common core of knowledge, and result in a single, nationally-recognised certificate linked to a broad occupational pathway.

Improving education-to-work transitions for young people who have low qualifications will be crucial for any attempt to boost social mobility in Britain. We recommend that the government phases out level 2 apprenticeships for 16–18-year-olds, and replaces them with a distinct pre-apprenticeship programme. This would be designed to meet the specific needs of younger learners and help them to progress to further study or a full level 3 apprenticeship.

The pre-apprenticeship programme would differ from the current apprenticeship programme in key ways:

  • Pre-apprenticeships would contain more ‘off the job’ training
  • Pre-apprenticeships would include more general education (including English and maths)
  • Pre-apprenticeships would result in a transferable qualification.
  • Employers would be subsidised for hiring a young person on a pre-apprenticeship (they could be allowed to use their levy payment to cover a young person’s wages while on the programme).
  • There would be one ‘pre-apprenticeship programme’ for each of the 15 technical pathways identified in the recent Sainsbury review and government skills plan.
  • Pre-apprenticeships would only be offered by FE colleges, or training providers which are run on a not-for-profit basis.


Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Earning and learning: Making the apprenticeship system work for 16–18-year-olds | IPPR


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