School to work transition: lessons from Australia

With support from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, earlier this year I undertook a traveling fellowship to Australia looking at what we could learn about how they prepare young people for the world of work. Historically the Australian system of education and vocational training was modelled on that in the UK but, whilst we had a significant dip in Apprenticeship numbers during the 80s and 90s, their buoyant economy has seen considerable growth and innovation.

Here are seven lessons we could learn from our Australian counterparts:

1. We  should make employer’s needs more central to the vocational training and Apprenticeship system. In Australia although some money still goes to the training provider, most of the financial support for Apprentices is aimed at employers. As recommended in the Richard Review, the bulk of skills funding in the UK should go to employers, so that they can then invest in the training provider of their choice.

2. We  should use other financial incentives sparing and to encourage the employment of disadvantaged groups, including 16/17 year olds, young people with disabilities and, in some professions, young people of underrepresented gender/ethnicity. In Australia there is a complicated system of financial support, which at first sight appears very attractive (  However, over time they have come to be seen as entitlements and a review by Deloitte seemed to show that they had very little incentivising power.

3. We should develop the system of group training organisations, so that in industries where there is a high turnover of employees, e.g. construction,  Apprentices can be passed between host companies more easily.  In Australia, about 10% of Apprentices are now employed through a group training organisation (  They provide a particularly attractive option for employers who find it difficult to add additional permanent employees to their headcount or who simply want more support.

4. Progression planning should begin much earlier, with the first conversations about the world of work starting in primary school and occurring regularly thereafter. By the time young people enter Key Stage 4, they should have clear post-16 pathways mapped out and be clear how to get there. In Australia they ensure this by establishing links between schools and businesses, so that young people and teachers have access to industry knowledge. In the UK, all young people, and particularly those who come from workless families, need to have access to engagement opportunities with employees, work skills training and workplace experiences.

5. We should provide more support for young people to stay in school and improve their behaviour and attendance. In Australia I saw the work of the Beacon Foundation (, which aims to help young people make informed, high aspiration decisions about their future pathways. High quality pastoral support from a school-based tutor/mentor, backed up by life skills development and access to a network of specialist support, is the best way of ensuring all young people leave with the best possible achievements.

6. We should explore the options for School/College-Based Apprenticeships, perhaps within a ‘TechBacc’ framework, so that young people are able to start high quality work-related learning earlier. Although the UK’s Young Apprenticeship programme was stopped following the recommendations of the Wolf Review, in some Australian states it has provided a high quality alternative route to employment. It may also enable young people to tap into the growing part-time job market and, if paid, offset recent reductions in financial support for 16-19 year olds.

7. The proposed new system of Traineeships should provide high quality pre-Apprenticeship training for young people who are not yet work-ready.    The current foundation learning offer should be enriched to be more like the  Australian approach, which includes qualifications more directly leading into Apprenticeship opportunities and some real, paid work experience.

Kevin Munday is the ThinkForward Programme Development Manager at Private Equity Foundation.

The youth unemployment crisis


The latest figures out today show that there has been a slight fall in the number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).  However, now is not the time to be complacent, the figures are still very high.  Today we launch a small scale piece of research which examines what would improve the employment rate for young people.  We would love to hear from others about your experiences of what steps need to be taken to help, particularly the most vunerable young people into secure sustained employment.

Download the full report here

The report was undertaken pro bono for PEF and examines what would improve the employment rate of young people, and particularly within small and medium enterprises. It recognises the practical issues faced by education providers and employers alike in the context of economic stringency, and offers pragmatic recommendations to improve the supply of suitably qualified young people to the workplace.

It considers that both education providers and businesses alike fail to fully understand on a regular basis ‘what is really needed’ in order for young people to successfully gain employment. Despite sincere motives, some employers are poorly informed about what schools actually achieve; some schools are poorly informed about what prospective employers are looking for.

The report recommends that the drive for achieving effective progression to work is the primary responsibility of schools and colleges and that:

  • Government should be clearer to schools that they have the option to retain work experience for 14-16 year olds
  • OfSTED should include a specific focus the effectiveness of the preparation made by schools for its students to succeed in the workplace, and on the scope and impact of their liaison with their local business community.
  • The PEF ThinkForward model of a ‘consistent professional ‘should be applied to support those vulnerable young people who are looking for employment
  • Local authorities should be reminded of their opportunities to create employment for young people through their procurement practices

Alan Lazell is a freelance education professional. He has extensive senior management experience at divisional director level in a local authority, with a particular emphasis upon 14-19 issues.

Bold new government programme to support young people in the transition from school into work

The Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock, has announced plans for a new Traineeship programme to provide young people with the skills, attitudes and experience to secure and sustain employment through ‘on the job’ training.

The Private Equity Foundation welcomes the proposal for Traineeships as a clearly defined alternative route to work for young people. It implements many of the key recommendations in the Wolf Report on vocational education and Richard Review on Apprenticeships , and delivers on the commitments in the Coalition Agreement to work pairing.

We submitted the following response to the consultation to support the development of the Traineeship delivery and funding model, in collaboration with our partner charities, Workingrite, ThinkForward and Tomorrow’s people, and our business network. As an intermediary, we are in a unique position to be able to represent the voice of both providers and employers, as well as young people themselves.

Read the full submission

Our key recommendations to maximise the success of Traineeships can be summarised as follows:

  • Build on what works – Local as well as national providers and employers with a track record in delivering core components of Traineeships (work placements, work skills training and mentoring) should be involved in designing and developing the Traineeship programme.
  • Start early – Research has shown that young people would benefit from access to the world of work before embarking on a traineeship to be successful, as well as high quality advice at school.  For those that are disaffected, the Traineeship programme needs to encourage providers to prepare and motivate young people at 14 to 16 years so that they do not move further away from the job market.
  • Work placements are key – Placements that provide an authentic experience of the world of work should be the core component of Traineeships.
  • Training needs to be personalised and relevant – Traineeships should leave trainees with skills that are in demand by employers in the local labour market. Any training needs to be personalised to the young person’s needs and learning style, and introduced at a pace and quantity in line with the young person’s development as an employee.
  • Transparent and accessible funding model – Funding should be directly accessible to all providers, including successful small, local providers in the voluntary sector, and reflect the level of quality needed to deliver the programme successfully.
  • No financial barriers for young people – The Traineeship model will not work if there is no allowance paid to the young trainee. There should be a government contribution towards the young people’s training allowance – but not all the costs. We believe there is      merit in exploring a model whereby the training allowance paid to each young person is a funding split between government and business.

We are setting up a cross-sector roundtable in the upcoming weeks. Please get in touch with us if you are interested in joining us. Together we can shape a successful Traineeship programme and network of providers and employers that delivers positive outcomes for young people.

Email: for more informati0n.