Our blog will provide a personal insight from our members, young people and employers, to give you a real insight of Apprentices and their contribution to local businesses.

Raising the participation age of young people means more options not less

From September 2013, all young people in England will be required to participate in education or training beyond the current school-leaving age of 16. However, far from limiting the options of post-16 students, this new legislation opens up a broad range of training opportunities which aim to give young people more choice in how they learn. Martin Grubb, chairman of Career Creators, a network of training providers in Birmingham and Solihull, explains the options.

The latest amendments to the Education and Skills Act (2008) state that from Summer 2013, all English teenagers must remain in education or training until the academic year in which they turn 17 – and from Summer 2015, this will rise to 18. Contrary to some media reports however, this does not mean that all young people will need to remain in school.

The new legislation is commonly known as ‘Raising the Participation Age’, and at its core is the concept of choice. Students may well choose to stay on at their secondary school or join a sixth form college on a full-time basis, however there are many other options to choose from.

Remaining in full-time education is already popular with 16 year olds, particularly if they aspire to joining university, but this is not the right option for every student and with the increased cost of higher education, even the brightest students may be on the lookout for an alternative. The new legislation allows for the individual career goals of 16 and 17 year olds, and includes the option to undertake an apprenticeship, part-time learning coupled with employment, volunteering or work experience, or even home schooling.

The uptake of apprenticeships is already on the rise, with over 100,000 applications for apprentice positions this year alone. Participants benefit from both practical and theoretical experience, working within a real company and completing assignments based on their work when they attend college on a day-release basis. By earning a wage, apprentices also gain greater independence, and by completing the apprenticeship they will achieve a recognised qualification such as an NVQ which still gives them the opportunity to progress to higher education should they wish to do so. As 81% of businesses believe that apprentices make the workplace more productive, the number of places on offer is sure to grow in line with demand from employers and young people alike.

For those students who don’t achieve the results they are looking for at GCSE, particularly in the functional skills areas of English, Maths and ICT, foundation learning offers an ideal path to an apprenticeship, further education or the world of work, while still participating in education.

Another post-GCSE option for students is to combine part-time learning with volunteering or other work experience, whether paid or unpaid. Like apprenticeships, this combines earning with education and real-life experience, but lacks the structure and support system offered by an apprenticeship scheme.

Birmingham and Solihull has a wide array of organisations who can help young people asses which option is right for them – many of these organisations are part of the career creators network. To learn more about what’s on offer visit

Whatever choice a young person makes at 16, it’s important to remember that the apprenticeship door remains open to them until they are 24 in most cases. So for example, it’s possible for them to remain at school until they are 18 and then join an apprenticeship afterwards, perhaps as a change of direction or an alternative to university.

It’s hoped that, by raising the participation age, England will see a reduction in numbers of NEETs – those aged 24 and under and not in employment, education or training. Due to the rising costs of higher education and the still fragile job market, many young people are seeing the benefit of remaining in some kind of education for longer, to improve their job prospects – and as apprenticeships offer an attractive mix of practical experience, qualifications and a regular income, we expect this exciting sector to continue to expand.

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