As we enter National Apprenticeships Week, we need to shout out the very real fact that apprenticeships offer a clear path to a successful career for thousands of young people in our area. Unfortunately, too many are still being left behind by a Government that takes an indifferent attitude towards them and their future.
Apprenticeships are of enormous benefit, not only for each apprentice but also for the businesses training them.
That’s why I was so proud to introduce my Apprenticeships and Skills (Public Procurement Contracts) Bill in this session of Parliament. Sadly blocked by the Tory-led Government, my Bill would have opened up thousands more opportunities – especially for higher and advanced-level apprenticeships – for our young people.
We know good apprenticeship schemes can help to fill a skills gap and allow businesses the opportunity to tailor their workforce around their specific needs. They also offer real returns to businesses through increased productivity and competitiveness.
And for apprentices there is the opportunity to learn on the job, build up knowledge and skills, gain qualiﬁcations and earn money all at the same time. They also gain excellent prospects for the future because they have the knowledge and experience that employers really value.
The Government isn’t doing enough to create quality apprenticeships for young people. When we were in office, Labour revitalised the programme – boosting apprenticeship starts from 65,000 when we took office in 1997 to 279,700 in our final year in government.
But under the Tories more than 900,000 young people are now out of work and there are 25,000 fewer apprentices starting than there were last year. The Tories and their Lib Dem allies aren’t doing enough to create the apprenticeships that Britain and Tameside and Stockport badly needs.
A One Nation Labour Government will put this right. Building on the work of our independent Skills Taskforce, led by Chris Husbands, we will create a new universal standard for apprenticeships so they are qualifications that employers and young people can trust.
We’ve also called on the Government to use the billions spent through public procurement to boost apprenticeship opportunities – we would require all companies bidding for contracts worth over £1 million to offer apprenticeships.
Investing in apprenticeships is an integral part of creating a better economy that works for everyone instead of just a few. Young people in Tameside and Stockport are amongst those who stand to benefit, but only if the Tory-led Government steps up to provide the apprenticeships we need.