For young people with multiple barriers to employment, are apprenticeships a viable option? 

At Creative Youth Network, we work with 15-25 year olds who are not in employment, education or training and experience multiple barriers. We have worked with 195 young people through our West of England Works partnership and we also provide support through our Job Club, where anyone under 25 can come to get support with their job search.

 

Young people we work with experience multiple disadvantage: they might have disengaged from education, without a Maths or English qualification, they might have a precarious living situation or face homelessness, or could suffer from a disability, have suffered discrimination because they are from minority backgrounds, and the list continues. 

The needs of the young people we work with are complex and we always work to enable them to find the best opportunities. We have found many of them are interested in learning and developing their skills further, at the same time as earning a wage. Apprenticeships are very attractive, as they enable professional and skills development. 

This Apprenticeship Week 2019, we ask: Who is not benefiting from apprenticeships?

One of the most common struggles of young people we work with is the pressure to support themselves. We work with a high percentage of care leavers, and the additional responsibility of covering their cost of living means they don't consider education as a viable option. This leads them to considering apprenticeships as more attractive. 

However, it's significantly more difficult for the young people we work with to gain an apprenticeship, compared to going to a college course or other employment. The market is increasingly competitive and the qualifications and the experience needed are hardly ever held by the young people we work with. 

Learning trades 

This is an issue especially in the construction industry, where it's much easier to take on 'cash in hand' payments for odd jobs rather than gain an apprenticeship. This means although young people get the short term benefits, they don't have employment rights and also don't gain the skills required for climbing the professional ladder. 

Our jobs are to make sure young people have a good grasp of the opportunities available to them and ensure they are balancing their long term ambitions with their short term needs. It's always disheartening to see a young person who is in supported accommodation and needs the money to pay their rent, bills and food, dismiss an opportunity which might benefit them much greater long-term, because they need to meet their basic needs. 

The benefits of apprenticeships 

As an employer ourselves, we are very proud of enabling young people to join us as apprentices. One of our first apprentices, Alex, has been with us since we were a small organisation putting on yearly gigs for young people in Kingswood. He's grown with us and is now our IT and Business Support Officer. We were also grateful to have Emma with us, initially as an apprentice and then working through Level 2 and Level 3 business administration to become our Estates assistant. 

We are part of Coach Core, employing two sports apprentices who work in our youth clubs, developing their skills and engaging other young people through sport. One of our apprentices on the scheme, Kayleigh, won Coach Core Apprentice of the Year and had the amazing opportunity to go to Twickenham to watch the England rugby team training and meet Prince Harry, the patron of the scheme.

We do believe more support is needed for young people with multiple barriers to be able to benefit from apprenticeship opportunities. Our one to one support is truly a step in the right direction, but we'd like to hear from you. What do you think can be done better to open this type of opportunity to more young people?