Manifesto - Training & Education

Often the young people who access YMCA services will have few qualifications and little or no experience of the workplace. As a result job opportunities can be limited and quickly a young person can find themselves in a succession of short-term, part time, zero-hour contract based jobs with periods in and out of benefits. There are many contributing factors as to why a young person reaches a YMCA in this position and there is much the Government could be doing to address this.

Leaving secondary education without the necessary qualifications potentially damages a young person’s prospects.  As such, additional funding should be made available to schools to target those young people less likely to succeed, raising their attainment levels and allowing them to have an equal chance of success.

Regardless of ability, it is difficult to make the right educational and career choices without being fully informed of the raft of options available and the quality of careers information, advice and guidance (IAG) has traditionally been patchy at best. Whilst the duty being placed on schools to deliver this is welcomed, there is evidence to suggest it is not being treated as a specialist service and is being delivered by teachers rather than IAG professionals[i].

As such young people are not being made aware of the different pathways available and especially those alternatives to mainstream educational pathways such as vocational training and apprenticeships. The inclusion of employers and businesses in the classroom and introducing work experience as a compulsory element of secondary school education would also aid the widening of a young person’s level of understanding prior to making decisions on their future.

The Government’s focus and drive for apprenticeships as an alternative option for young people is welcomed. However, the application of this in practice has not been as successful. There still remains a difficulty in availability for particular age groups in accessing apprenticeships[ii] and being able to maintain participation on one is challenging when in receipt of Housing Benefit or a low wage.

At the heart of YMCA’s beliefs is that young people should always have the opportunity to better themselves. However despite having the opportunities in front of them, for some young people the traditional journey through the education system can be disrupted by having to deal with difficult personal circumstances that prohibits them from progressing the first time around. It is for these young people that accessing training and education at a later stage is vital. However, a barrier to this is the removal of entitlement to full-time education for those over 19 years old[iii].

Furthermore, one of the most consistent complaints from young people is the regulations around the 16-hour rule and the impact it has on their ability to gain adequate training whilst on benefits[iv]. Due to the limited number of part-time courses available, the 16-hour rule stops a substantial amount of training being undertaken and hinders the development of young people whilst in receipt of benefits.


  • The Government should extend the upper age limit for funding of education and training from 19 to 21 years old.
  • A review of the current apprenticeships policy should be undertaken with a particular focus on what additional incentives would help encourage more companies to take on apprenticeships – particularly apprentices aged 16 to 24.
  • Free or heavily discounted travel should be provided to those studying an apprenticeship when travelling to and from their training.
  • The provision of information, advice and guidance in schools and colleges should be delivered by professional careers specialists.
  • Engage employers and businesses from the local community into schools to give an insight into work and alternative pathways to higher and further education.
  • Workplace experience should become a compulsory element for schools to provide to students in years ten and eleven.
  • An inquiry should be set up into the effectiveness of Jobcentre Plus in getting young people into employment.
  • Amend the regulations which prevent young people from participating on courses or training for over 16 hours per week whilst still claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit.
  •  Jobcentre Plus should expand its list of preferred training providers to include voluntary sector organisation within the local community.
  • Jobcentre Plus advisors should be trained and supported to better understand the difficulties and barriers that young people commonly face to enable them to provide more tailored support.
  • Young people in the first instance should be able to source their own training schemes and have the opportunity to make the case to their job centre work coaches as to why it will improve their employment prospects.
  • Agreed training undertaken by young people should have travel costs funded upfront and held against their benefits if receipts not returned.
  • Those who are in receipt of Housing Benefit should be entitled to continue receiving the higher rate when participating on an apprenticeship.
  • Refocus funding available to schools to provide early intervention and targeted support for those young people not meeting national attainment levels.


[i] Milburn, Unleashing Aspiration: The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, July 2009
[ii] Skills Funding Agency and Department for Business Innovation and Skills, Breakdown by age, gender and level: starts 2002/03 to 2012/13, March 2014
[iii] Wolf, Review of Vocational Education – The Wolf Report, 2011
[iv] DWP, Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations, 2013