Although the stresses of results day may now seem a distant memory, for many young people the next steps can be just as daunting. Armed with their A-Level results our young people will now be deciding their next steps in life: whether to do hands-on training or an apprenticeship, or to begin studying for a university degree.
It’s the Government’s job to break down the barriers that could block the aspiration of our young people – but those going to university face the prospect of racking up more debt than ever. Under the Tories, the cost of tuition fees has tripled. Just as our energetic young people begin their working lives, they are being forced to carry around with them the heavy burden of on average, £45,000 of debt.
Young people taking up apprenticeships have also taken a hit, with the Government recently backing down on it’s promise for to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. Instead, the number of new apprenticeship places for young people has dried up. Now only 15% of apprentices in the UK are under 19, with bosses using the funding to retain existing staff rather than focusing on bringing in new skills.
From my own experience, I know how valuable high quality apprenticeships are. I started my own working life as a youth trainee at ICL (a large computing company that’s now part of Fujitsu) between 1990 and 1992. That training, and experience of real-life work was as invaluable as the day release at Tameside College. That’s why I introduced a Private Members Bill in the 2010-15 parliament to increase the number of higher and advanced apprenticeships linked to the awarding of contracts by local and central government – taxpayer funded projects like new railways, schools and hospitals.
No one should be put off from achieving their potential through a lack of money or fear of debt. Everyone should have the chance to further their studies, not just those that can afford it. That’s why at the last election we promised to scrap tuition fees and to make sure that young people have access to high quality apprenticeships. For too long the importance of delivering apprenticeships for young people have been forgotten by politicians in Westminster, but the next Labour Government will place them at the core of our new National Education Service – guaranteeing quality apprenticeships for our young people and reversing years of Tory decline. For those that instead choose to go to University, Labour’s plans for students mean that they will benefit from starting their new careers without the heavy burden of debt, free to reach their full potential.
The top priority of the Labour Party has always been to develop the talent and raise the ambitions of all our young people. We want to see high standards for all, and not just for a few that have the money to afford it. But also investing in skills and investing in our young people just makes sense – not just for them, but so we can all benefit from a new generation of highly skilled engineers, doctors, teachers and scientists.