The Department has a number of initiatives already in place to ensure that 16 to 19-year-olds in employment have access to training.
Government-funded apprenticeships offer the opportunity for young people to earn as they learn. There are over 200 apprenticeships designed by employers, available to 16 to 19-year-olds in 80 different sectors with 130,000 employers taking part. These apprenticeships give employees the opportunity to learn on the job and also through off the job training.
Train to Gain gives employers the opportunity to access publicly-funded support to train their low skilled workers. Whilst apprenticeships are the most appropriate route for 16 to 19-year-olds in employment, 19-year-olds are also eligible for funding through Train to Gain. 16 and 17-year-olds who are in employment, and who have not yet attained NVQ level 2 or equivalent, are entitled to reasonable paid time off during normal working hours to study or train for a qualification which will improve their future employment prospects.
The Department is also piloting Learning Agreements to help 16 and 17-year-olds in employment get back into education and training. Young people will agree personal contracts to return to education or vocational training in return for financial support.
From 2013, when all young people are required to continue in education or training until the age of 18, we are proposing that where employers are employing a 16 or 17-year-old for more than 20 hours a week and are not providing or arranging accredited training for them, the employer will be required to release the young person from work for a day a week to attend training elsewhere. Where employers want to offer training themselves, we will encourage and support them to do so. We will work with employers to seek flexible and low burden ways for them to get existing good quality training accredited.
Engagement in learning, and educational attainment, are critical if young people are to achieve good outcomes, and fulfil their potential. Our 14 to 19 reforms will ensure that all young people have the opportunity to choose a learning pathway which suits them and which can be the basis for progression to further learning, higher education and employment. This is essential if our young people are to have the skills they need to compete in our increasingly global economy.
And our initiatives are having an effect. The number of 16 to 18-year-olds participating in education and training increased to 1.55 million at the end of 2006, the highest number ever. And, the percentage of 19-year-olds achieving at least level 2 was 71.4 in 2006. This is an increase of 5.1 percentage points since 2004.