Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council has ringfenced apprenticeship and work experience opportunities through the council’s ‘inclusive offer’, a scheme which creates opportunities for young people who need extra support to benefit from work.
Barnsley Council’s ‘inclusive offer’ oversees funding for up to 10 ringfenced apprenticeships at any one time. The ringfenced positions are for care experienced young people and/or young people with Education, Health, and Care Plans (EHCPs).
Any underspend in the inclusive offer funding has been used for paid work experience placements within the council. The inclusive offer team identified a need for an alternative option for young people who were not apprenticeship-ready but needed an opportunity to earn and learn, with the aim for them to progress onto an apprenticeship at a later stage. Work placements offer the opportunity to upskill and study for additional built-in qualifications such as English, maths, digital skills, employability skills and first aid.
Care experienced young people and young people with EHCPs can have significantly more barriers into employment and education than their peers. They may not have the skills, experience or qualifications required to move on in work and often need extra support to achieve.
Through missed opportunities for personal and professional development, they can lack knowledge around suitable work-based behaviours and expectations and require further support in this area once in the workplace.
The creation of bespoke and ringfenced apprenticeships and paid work experience provides inclusive opportunities for young people who face barriers to employment. The available budget means that opportunities can be created on a ‘needs’ basis as and when required, so they can be tailored to the individual. This also prevents providing unsuitable opportunities where young people will not succeed. All young people also have access to the lead pastoral mentor who monitors progress, provides wraparound support to the young people, and gives information, advice and guidance to managers/teams supporting the young person on how best to successfully manage the placement.
The positive impact of the ringfenced apprenticeships is reflected in the council’s retention of apprentices over the last three years; there is a 100% retention and completion rate. In previous years, before wraparound support was implemented, some apprentices left their posts before achievement. The higher level of wraparound support has meant young people are supported to stay on track during their apprenticeship and progress onto meaningful employment or education after their apprenticeship. The wraparound support mitigates the risk of young people seeking support from other services, such as the Job Centre or Youth Justice Service. This is not to say that all young people from disadvantaged backgrounds will become unemployed or at risk of offending, but vulnerable young people are at a higher risk of this than others who receive wraparound support or are not vulnerable.
The ringfenced apprenticeship opportunities also contribute to raising aspirations in other young people from disadvantaged groups - “if you can see it, you can be it”. It has meant that some apprentices have gone on to secure full-time and permanent employment with the council, moved into independent living and other successes. The apprenticeships give young people an opportunity at success so that they can gain confidence and build their self-esteem.
There has also been a positive impact on the diversity of the council workforce, with the ringfenced apprenticeships attracting and retaining young talent into the workforce. In turn, the apprenticeships have also made a positive contribution to the local economy.
How is the new approach being sustained?
Barnsley Council’s inclusive offer team manage the central budget for ringfenced apprenticeships and paid work experience placements, which is allocated annually.
They have implemented a ‘review and improve’ approach which means looking at lessons learned and potential improvements each time a new apprenticeship begins. The team seeks regular feedback from young people and the teams they are working with.
Improving the process for creating individualised opportunities: e.g. creation and improvement of referral forms, process of approaching managers/services with potential opportunities (making sure they have all the information they need), and the inclusive offer team taking on the recruitment and selection process for managers to reduce their workload.
Improving and informing the pastoral support put in place: e.g. developing case studies and ‘review and improve’ sessions looking at the wraparound support and identifying ways to make this stronger.
Using the funding underspend for paid work placements: the inclusive offer team identified a need for an alternative option for young people who were not apprenticeship-ready but needed an opportunity to earn and learn, with the hope for them to move into an apprenticeship at a later stage.