Single parents are ideal candidates to take up apprenticeships, but Gingerbread’s report, Making Apprenticeships and Traineeships Work for Single Parents, has found substantial evidence of barriers that inhibit them from accessing and progressing in these schemes.
“Despite the current government focus on apprenticeships and traineeships there is little evidence that these schemes have had a significant impact on single parents to date. We know single parents want to work and apprenticeships have been positioned as the cornerstone of the government’s work skills agenda,” says Laura Dewar, Policy Officer at Gingerbread.
“With the clock ticking on their target of getting three million people into schemes by 2020 the government has missed an open goal by making apprenticeship schemes incompatible with single parents’ lives and commitments.”
Gingerbread is calling on the Government to:
- Scrap the existing apprenticeship target, which measures 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.
- 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.
- Provide career and skills support 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.
- Undertake further work 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.
The report has uncovered some evidence of good practice – for example, the Camden Apprenticeship Pilot for Parents, and the Civil Service commitment to opening up more part-time apprenticeship opportunities. However, to gain scale and impact for single parents, the government needs to improve access to traineeships and offer more routes to apprenticeships.
The reality for single parents is that they are disproportionately concentrated in low paid work and research has shown that once in these jobs, this is where they stay. Apprenticeships and traineeships are one potential route for single parents to increase their skills levels and work experience, and thus their ability to secure better-paid and more sustainable work.
At the start of National Apprenticeship Week, Gingerbread is calling for positive change both in the attitude around traineeships being a potential stepping-stone, and a more inclusive apprenticeship design.