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Just a third of the government’s traineeships budget was spent during the past two years – with education chiefs handing back nearly £230 million to the Treasury, shocking new figures reveal.

The Department for Education last month announced it was axing the flagship pre-employment programme, and instead said it would be “integrated” into existing 16 to 19 programmes and adult education provision from August 2023.

Years of low take-up were to blame for the decision, with starts reaching just half and two-thirds of their respective targets in 2020/21 and 2021/22 despite huge additional investment aimed at helping young people to enter the jobs market during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fresh figures published in response to a parliamentary written question from Toby Perkins, Labour’s shadow skills minister, have now revealed the extent of the flop.

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