Opinion: Expansion of apprenticeships shows that Liberal Democrats are the party of young people.

Made by apprentices reception License Some rights reserved by ApprenticeshipsAs someone who believes tackling long-term youth unemployment and giving opportunities to young people should be the Liberal Democrats’ next great mission in Government, I very much welcome the news in the Budget of new measures to grow the number of apprenticeships in our economy.

These initiatives are set to create 100,000 more apprentices which is fantastic news for young people in communities up and down the Country.

To ensure this happens, Liberal Democrat Ministers  are providing £85million in both 2014-15 and 2015-16 to extend the Apprenticeship Grants for Employers scheme, giving companies incentive payments to take on apprentices.

Sometimes when talking to employers they can feel taking on an apprentice is too much of a risk or will take up too much time. These payments allay those fears and I’d encourage businesses-whether large, medium, or small to take on an apprentice and help give an enthusiastic young person a great start on their careers.

Liberal Democrats in Government are also providing £20 million to support apprenticeships up to post-graduate level, giving more young people an opportunity to take their skill set to a higher level.

I’ve long since believed that we need to be placing apprenticeships and vocational qualifications on the same level of importance in our economy and for upcoming generations as we do university degrees.

We need to start valuing Skill again; we need people to be able to make things and mend things and believe, rightly, that that is as important as being a lawyer, or a doctor, or a teacher.

These measures will give renewed hope in places such as Barwell in Leicestershire, which I represent.

In my Borough, Hinckley and Bosworth, where we run the Council, we’ve seen one of the biggest increases in apprenticeships outside oLondon in recent years.

These announcements today will see even more new opportunities come our way.

There’s always more that can be done, but this Budget, with these Liberal Democrat wins, goes a long way to showing that we are, indeed, the Party for young people.

* Mathew Hulbert is a parish Councillor in Leicestershire.

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  • If you’re the Party of Young People (and forgetting Uni fees), why are the Lib Dems so in favour of Help to Buy – a policy that helps push house price upwards, and only really benefits older homeowners who see their asset value rise?

  • To ensure this happens, Liberal Democrat Ministers are providing £85million in both 2014-15 and 2015-16 to extend the Apprenticeship Grants for Employers scheme …

    In what sense is this money being provided by “Liberal Democrat Ministers”, to the exclusion of Conservative Ministers?

  • Where will the apprenticeships be? They are used to pay poor wages to young people. There is no need to be an apprentice in a retail store for example. Are these 100,000 going to be in manufacturing or engineering or just retail and offices where employers will exploit to pay peanuts?

  • Graham Evans 19th Mar '14 - 10:50pm

    I think it sums ups some people’s attitude to vocational training in the UK when we get such ill-informed comments regarding the retail industry from people like Anne. The best vocational training in Europe is to be found in Germany and there, no matter what sector of the economy you work in, apprenticeships are the norm, In fact it is the large retail organisations which are able to offer some of the best opportunities for young people. Moreover the Government has tightened up the regulations regarding apprenticeships, because it was undoubtedly the case that at one time some private training providers were offering mickey mouse qualifications simply to rake in money. However, there is a definite problem in regard to the willingness, indeed the ability, of SMEs to take on apprentices. The college in which I am involved in the South East has significantly more applicants than there are places available, despite the generally high levels of full-time employment in the area. While I welcome extra money for employers, I fear that this will not be enough to encourage small employers to become engaged in these schemes.

  • Stephen Donnelly 19th Mar '14 - 11:54pm

    I am a medium sized business man and am not convinced by the apprenticeship scheme.

    We were approached by the local chamber of commerce who receive government funding to promote apprenticeships. We were told we did not need to provide any training. They explained that the main benefit was a small government grant and the ability to avoid minimum wage legislation. Apprentices can be paid £2.68/hour. The minimum wage for 18 year olds is £5.03 per hour. We have a living wage policy and will not pay less than £7.65/hr. We offer training to all our staff.

    We did ask if there was a training programme that we could use as an SME business to provide a frame work to train laboratory staff. Nothing suitable exists. Nobody is interested. There is no government funding for that.

    Maybe other people have a better experience of the apprenticeship scheme. From my own experience it is a name attached to a cheap labour programme, and offers none of the benefits that you might expect from a traditional apprenticeship.

  • “I think it sums ups some people’s attitude to vocational training in the UK when we get such ill-informed comments regarding the retail industry from people like Anne. The best vocational training in Europe is to be found in Germany and there, no matter what sector of the economy you work in, apprenticeships are the norm,”

    I suppose it’s because people traditionally associate apprenticeships with the acquisition of some skill or craft, and they find it difficult to see why serving over the counter or stacking shelves should require a protracted period of ‘training’, during which the employer is able to pay a fraction of the minimum wage.

  • Michael Parsons 20th Mar '14 - 11:05am

    “Forgetting Uni fees?
    And forgetting the million or so unemployed young people, the suicide rate and poor health, the commitment to austerity with out end aimed at creating a new “normality” of low wages, poor social provision, and underemployment,; forgetting the creation of £billions then given to criminal rate-fixing banks and not to direct Stare investment in areas of high unemployment .. forgetting the war-mongering and wasted deaths of young soldiers-forgetting the whole moral disgrace of this appalling government so that the Lib Dem leeches can let go and try to swim alone before an election!

    Nick Clegg’s crime is simple and overwhelming: by Coalition he silenced the one effective dissenting voice in current politics.

  • Graham Evans has it spot on. I find it astonishing that Apprenticeships have , by default, become a Government issue. In Germany, and pre Thatcher, in the UK companies recognised the advantages of training a workforce for their future requirements whist at the same time ensuring on-going commitment by skilled staff to the organisation and its culture. Could this be related to our inability to compete with Germany?
    Perhaps this situation is symptomatic of a UK Management malaise which has resulted in the ludicrous trumpeting of our record car production which, of course, is almost universally foreign owned. By the way it is staffed by British workers who were blamed for the demise of the UK car industry.

  • Chris Manners 20th Mar '14 - 5:12pm

    “These initiatives are set to create 100,000 more apprentices which is fantastic news for young people in communities up and down the Country.”


    “In 2011, 70% of apprentices worked for their employer prior to starting their apprenticeship, compared to 48% in 2007”

    There you go- rebranded inhouse training for existing employees.

  • Graham Evans 20th Mar '14 - 5:59pm

    I think Chris (not Chris Manners) has a background in education, but perhaps he illustrates Vince Cable’s observation regarding teachers and their ignorance of the world of employment outside the public sector. An apprenticeship in the retail sector with an employer such as Tesco involves a hell of a lot more than stacking shelves (http://www.tesco-careers.com/home/students/apprenticeships-in-retails)

    However, I think Stephen Donnelly may have a point, though I am surprised that the local chamber of commerce should be party to the approach he outlines. At the college with which I am involved we see our role to provide high quality training and experience – indeed in the early days of apprenticeships, a good few years ago now, we actually stopped offering apprenticeships because we recognised we weren’t very good and at that time saw little prospect of improvement. Moreover to have continued would have seriously damaged our Ofsted assessment. However, I believe that the openings which we now provide are of a high quality, irrespective of the area of activity. Perhaps Stephen should ask Ofsted how his local chamber of commerce have been able to get away with such a poor quality offering.

  • Stephen Donnelly – thanks for that report from the coal face. It fits with comments I have heard from others and supports my growing conviction that the government’s approach to apprenticeships is based far more on the desire to generate good PR than on any thought-through plan to provide top quality training. Is it any wonder that people are disinclined to vote?

    Some other points:

    Britain’s problem is not so much with vocational training as with anything vaguely blue collar. Medicine and accountancy for example are highly vocational subjects with high quality training involving a mix of formal study and hands-on experience in the workplace in a structure that is well understood by all concerned – students, parents, teachers and employers. By contrast we have, as a nation, an ever-changing alphabet soup of schemes for anything informally deemed ‘blue collar’. Cost-avoidance (by the Treasury) and good PR take precedence over quality and there is no structured approach well understood by all parties. This distain and neglect of training for trade skills dates back at to at least 1850; repeated Royal Commissions and the like have concluded it’s one of the main reasons why our industrial performance is so inferior to Germany’s. I raised it with a then-senior Lib Dem policy chief over 20 years ago and was told, “It’s not really something we are thinking about” (or words to that effect).

    From the post; “These initiatives are set to create 100,000 more apprentices …”

    Why 100,000 and not 131,240 or 97,576 or some other random number? Could it be because 100k is a nice round number that is large enough to be impressive, large enough to make some slight difference to unemployment statistics but not too expensive in the Treasury’s view? Whatever the precise reasoning it is clear that it represents some sort of political compromise in the murky depths of Whitehall. Fair enough you might think but the proper term for such an approach is ‘central planning’, the very same approach operated by the former USSR. Yet here is central planning alive and well and deployed by politicians who claim to believe in markets as the way to run just about everything. Could it be that they don’t know their proverbial from their elbow?

  • Peter Watson 21st Mar '14 - 10:00pm

    “Forgetting Uni fees?”
    Looks like this issue is not going away any time soon as some reports in the Guardian this evening (e.g. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/mar/21/student-fees-policy-costing-more) raise the possibility that Lib Dems might have to go into the 2015 election explaining why they U-turned on a principle and broke their promises in order to push through a failing policy.

  • George Crozier 23rd Mar '14 - 7:59pm

    My employer is involved in the higher apprenticeship in professional services (accountancy, tax, management consulting). I’ve not been directly involved myself (beyond a bit of comms support) but my experience is there a pretty robust framework involved and these represent a genuine and effective partnership between government, employers and professional bodies. Just one perspective admittedly but a positive one I thought I would share.

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