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How to make the right choice between traineeships, apprenticeships or the kickstart scheme

As we move into 2021 there is a selection of government-backed funds that can help businesses bounce back. Here we untangle the incentives, requirements, timelines and commitments of the available schemes to determine which is the best fit for your organisation.

From traineeships and apprenticeships to the recently launched Kickstart Scheme, the right choice will depend on factors including staff needs, company cash flow, seasonal peaks in industry and even specialist experience or training.


What is the Kickstart Scheme?

The Kickstart Scheme launched on 2nd September 2020 to provide funding to employers to create job placements which can start anytime until December 2021. It is aimed at 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit and businesses of all sizes can apply for funding, although there is one caveat.

To qualify, employers must make an application for a minimum of 30 job placements which for many smaller businesses might not be possible. In this case smaller organisations can team up through a Kickstart gateway where collectively 30 placements can be provided. Local authorities, charities, trade bodies and training providers, like Qube Learning, can help facilitate this collective action.

The Kickstart Scheme might be right for you as funding can cover 100% of the national minimum or living wage for 25 hours per week for a total of six months. Funding can also be used to cover associated employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) or employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions.

For employers, this is an excellent opportunity to not only grow business but also invest in young people when many are struggling amidst the pandemic. By working with a gateway, you’ll also receive additional support that guides you through the Kickstart process and through JobCentre Plus find suitable applicants for the job placements you offer.


Why consider traineeships?

A traineeship is a skills development programme that includes a work placement. It is designed for young people aged 16 to 24, unqualified or qualified up to a Level 3 (A level or equivalent) whose preference is to find a job or apprenticeship but lack the skills and experience sought by employers. Unlike an apprenticeship, a traineeship is a programme of learning and skills development, it is not a job.

Traineeships are designed to secure a young person’s progression in a positive way. Programmes can last from six weeks up to a year, though most tend to last less than six months. In 2019, 75% of trainees started an apprenticeship, employment, or further learning within 12 months of starting the traineeship.

In July 2020, the chancellor provided additional investment for 30,000 new traineeships, and employers could also access a new work placement incentive of up to £1,000 per learner for up to ten trainees in over nine regions.

Traineeships bring many benefits for employers. Firstly, a high-quality traineeship when partnered with a training provider ensures that a tailored programme is developed to suit your business needs.

Secondly, bringing in enthusiastic young people into your business injects the workforce with renewed energy and ensures you capture the best talent before they are snapped up by competitors. Working with trainees will also give established members of staff the chance to develop their skills in mentoring and coaching young people.

Lastly, traineeships will allow you to shape the skills and experience of young people from your local community, helping your business to develop a loyal and talented workforce and establish a positive business reputation.



Or apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are jobs that provide high quality training to ensure that an apprentice is fully competent in their occupation and prepared for a successful career. They are design to enhance confidence by developing their practical skills.

Apprenticeships each have a set of standards. Throughout the apprenticeship, candidates monitor their learning against these standards and must show that they have full understanding of them as part of the End-Point Assessment.

In line with government recovery plans following COVID-19, employers taking on an apprentice aged 16-18 (or aged under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan) will be given a £3,000 incentive (£1,000 as part of a previous incentive, and £2,000 under the new plan).

If taking on someone aged 19-24 employers will be given a £2,000 incentive, and if aged 25+ will be given a £1,500 incentive.

These payments will be made directly to employers in two equal instalments, when the apprentice reaches their first ninety days and then on day 365 of their programme. To be eligible to receive these particular incentives, apprentices must not have been employed by the employer within the six months prior to the apprenticeship contract start date

There are many benefits to apprenticeships for employers. In Qube Learning’s recent survey, 81% of employers said that apprentices make their businesses more productive. Through government incentives available, apprenticeships can reduce training and recruitment costs whilst also developing a skilled, motivated and qualified workforce. And there is a direct correlation between a motivated workforce and improved customer satisfaction.

Importantly, apprenticeships are not just for new staff. They can also be an important tool for upskilling existing employees.


Despite the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought, the New Year brings a positive opportunity to engage with government incentives. This can be used to build long-term specialist skills and staff retention, renewed learning and enthusiasm and a stronger workforce for British businesses.

Joe Crossley is CEO of Qube Learning