In this year’s Budget, Chancellor Phillip Hammond pledged to invest in “game-changing reforms” for technical qualifications, including £500million a year for “Tech-Levels”. Tech-Levels, or T-Levels, are being touted as an alternative to A-Levels. Between now and 2022, 15 new pathways will be developed in 15 sector areas where substantial technical training is required to progress into employment. At Dallaglio RugbyWorks, we applaud this pledge as it highlights the importance of alternative routes to employment for young people, especially those who may feel a more traditional route is not for them.

We work with disengaged young people, between the ages of 14 and 17, who have been permanently excluded and sit outside of mainstream education. Our programme, RugbyWorks, is implemented in Alternative Provision schools across London, Newcastle, Bristol and South Wales. Our aim is to give these young people the practical support, experience and ability they need to move into further education, employment or training. As well as helping the teenagers to build their soft skills via teambuilding activities, based on the values of rugby, we also work with businesses to provide them with work experience opportunities and placements on apprenticeship schemes.

A recent study conducted by the EY Foundation, which looked at young people’s views on the challenges of getting into work in 21st century Britain, found that 86% of young people in mainstream education say their school provides information about going to university, but only 48% say they receive information about apprenticeships. 56% also believe that it’s difficult to get the sort of experience they need to get the job they want and 88% call on employers to offer more work experience. As schools push more traditional academic routes, businesses have a critical role to play in catering for those who are better suited to the path less travelled. In Alternative Provision schools, careers advice is less standardised and so there is even more of a challenge and responsibility to help them understand their options for the future.

As mentioned before, we work exclusively with young people enrolled in Alternative Provision schools. Those who attend these schools do so for a wide variety of reasons, needing an array of specialist assistance. Many of them know it’s their last chance to gain a qualification, but they are often behind their peers academically. This can be because they have missed a lot of school or feel thoroughly demotivated, with a sense that they are never going to succeed. To put some statistics behind this, in the year 2011 to 2012, only 1.3% of pupils in Alternative Provision schools achieved five or more GCSEs at grade A* to C, or equivalent, including English and Mathematics in comparison to 53% of young people in mainstream education. Clearly, options outside of the traditional route are required. So, qualifications like T-Levels, and schemes like apprenticeships, can make a huge difference to their future. Drawing upon the findings in the EY Foundation’s study, the majority (65%) of young people have said work experience improves their confidence levels, improves their teamwork and communication skills (63%) and their sense of achievement (61%).

Legally, young people are now required to remain in education or traineeships until age 18, but Alternative Provision ends at age 16 leaving a gap in support for this cohort. Teenagers who fail to get into work, college or apprenticeships after they have left school, or alternative education, often enter a downward spiral that can lead to self-esteem issues, poverty and crime. It can be difficult to get these young people back on track and can be very costly for the taxpayer. In fact, according to the Sustainable Development Commission, providing early intervention for just one in ten young offenders could save over £100,000. At Dallaglio RugbyWorks, we continue to mentor the young people we work with after they have left school to ensure they are supported in their first year of further education, employment or training. We are currently still in contact with 70% of those who have left, 100% of whom are still in employment, education or training six months later. This is a real sign of success and a much higher rate than the national average of 51%. There is little better proof of the importance of alternative education, work experience and full time apprenticeships.

At Dallaglio RugbyWorks, we offer support that is bespoke to the individual to help them into a further education, employment or training path that suits them. The Government’s announcement around T-Levels, alongside its increasing focus on funding for apprenticeships with the upcoming levy, is very heartening. As appreciation for the value of alternative routes to employment increases, so does the future look brighter for the UK and its young people.