Over the next few weeks, thousands of students in Tameside will sit their GCSEs and A-Levels. They will be reflecting on the time they’ve spent in education, and looking ahead to life in the world of work. The importance of further and higher education in preparing young people for what lies ahead of them cannot be understated, and with our rapidly changing economy it’s vital that we’re able prepare the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow.
My message to Tameside’s young people is firstly to congratulate yourselves. You’ve got through an incredibly difficult two years, in which your education has been heavily disrupted by the pandemic. You’ve done a great job getting to this point, and you should be incredibly proud of the work you’ve put in. Secondly, keep an open mind about what might come next. Whether you want to go to university or start an apprenticeship, there’s so many options for the next steps you can take in equipping yourself for the future.
I’ve been passionate about apprenticeships throughout my political career. I got my first job as a trainee in a computing company, so I’ve always valued the importance of vocational training. In 2013 I introduced a Private Members Bill in Parliament to increase the number of apprenticeships included in publicly awarded contracts. Sadly, the Bill didn’t progress, and since 2010 apprenticeships in Denton and Reddish have declined over 45%. In February I backed Labour’s plan, supported by the Association of Employers and Learning Providers, which would create 20,000 new apprenticeships in the North West. Alongside this plan, Labour would also boost the number of top-quality teachers in our schools, so that young people are given the opportunities to thrive. I’ll continue putting pressure on the Government to do more to improve access to opportunities for young people, so that they can make the most of their education.
Universities are another way that Tameside’s young people can gain new qualifications. In February I spoke out in the House of Commons against the Government’s plan to block kids who failed their English or maths GCSE from taking out student loans. As a kid who struggled to pass my maths GCSE, but went on to gain higher education qualifications and a university degree, I’ll keep fighting on this issue to ensure that the kids of today have access to the opportunities which were given to me.
I want Tameside’s young people to have broad horizons, and this requires strengthening further and higher education provisions so that young people can access the jobs of tomorrow.