Labour: Young people across the North East let down by Government’s failure on Apprenticeships

Labour has today slammed the Tory-led government’s record on creating apprenticeships for young people in the North East, after statistics uncovered by Shadow Skills Minister Gordon Marsden MP show that across the North East the number of 16-18 year olds starting apprenticeships have declined this year by 580 to date in comparison with the same period last year.

The numbers dropped in a third of England’s regions.

Labour is calling for the government to use the £240 billion it spends on public procurement to boost apprenticeships, including for young people, by insisting that companies winning large government contracts offer new apprenticeship places. Labour’s Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell tabled a private member’s bill to enact this, although this has been rejected by ministers.

In March, BIS Minister John Hayes said that apprenticeship numbers were “extremely encouraging” and were “testament to the government’s unwavering commitment to apprenticeships. They at the heart of our skills policy” and in October said that apprenticeship statistics signalled “a rosy day for the Government and, much more importantly, a rosy day for Britain” and described critics as “carpers and the cringers, the whiners and the whingers”

The vast majority of the Government’s new Apprenticeships so far this year have been in the post 25+ category – making up 70% of the total additional Apprenticeship starts. This has coincided with the Government’s abolition of Train to Gain, which was previously the typical route for in work training for this age group, and has led many to believe much of these additional starts have come from transfers from this.

Commenting, Gordon Marsden, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Further Education, Skills and Regional Growth said

“With youth unemployment at its highest level for a generation, today’s statistics lay bare the Tory-led Government’s failure to ensure that there are enough quality apprenticeships for the young people in the North East crying out for these opportunities.

“The fact that the number of young people starting an apprenticeship has fallen here in the North East is staggering when you compare this to Ministers’ rhetoric and claims.

“We would take action by using public procurement and government contracts to boost apprenticeship places. Ministers need to get a grip and urgently boost apprenticeship opportunities for young people, but they have refused to back our plan.”