The report sets out what is currently known about single parents’ take-up and experiences of apprenticeships and traineeships in Britain, with a particular focus on London. It considers how far these schemes close the skills gap for single parents and meet their particular needs in terms of work and caring, showcasing examples of good practice. It sets out a series of recommendations for the future design, delivery and evaluation of these schemes, to ensure that they better meet the needs of single parents.
Apprenticeships represent an opportunity for single parents to upskill and improve their job prospects and pay. Traineeships could be suitable for single parents with pre-school aged children, who have the flexibility to train for up to a year rather than move into work under Universal Credit rules, as a gateway to an apprenticeship. However, the report finds that the proportion of single parents in Britain currently undertaking apprenticeships is very low and that those single parents currently participating in these schemes are predominantly doing so as part of their existing jobs. The report identifies a range of barriers – both generic and specific to single parents, that are likely to be preventing them from taking up these opportunities.
- Barriers specific to single parents include: a lack of advertised flexible vacancies; low pay; and a lack of matched childcare
- General barriers include: the fact that apprenticeship opportunities are too narrow for many women; a decline in the number of apprenticeships; and a lack of clarify about routes between unemployment, traineeships and apprenticeships.
- Government should scrap the existing apprenticeship target measuring apprenticeship starts and introduce more nuanced indicators measuring apprenticeship quality, the availability of part-time opportunities and the proportion of external recruits. The public sector should lead by example in the development of part-time and flexible apprenticeships and this should be explicitly reflected in their targets.
- The DWP should set a priority to increase the skill level of single parents with pre-school children aged three and four, whose work obligations will change under Universal Credit, by better promoting and implementing available flexibility and easements (the ways in which ‘lead carers’ can be treated differently under welfare rules), to develop routes for single parents into a wide range of traineeships and apprenticeships.
- Career and skills support should be provided to all single parents who move onto job-seeking benefits, encompassing part-time skills training and support with childcare. This should include opening up access to the extended 30 hour childcare offer to those undertaking a traineeship.
- Further work should be undertaken to test and evaluate a range of approaches to incentivise companies to take on single parent apprentices, including subsidising participation, promoting part-time opportunities and other innovative ideas.