Apprenticeships are at the heart of our mission as Conservatives to rebuild the country’s economy, giving young people the chance to learn a trade, to build their careers, and create a truly world-class, high-skilled workforce. that can compete and thrive in the fierce global race we are in.
During National Apprenticeship Week last week, I supported the Prime Minister’s vision for it to become the new norm for young people to either go to university or to start an apprenticeship. Last Friday morning, I attended an event at the Gelder Group head office and training academy to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week. I was proud to attend this and a number of events in Lincoln towards the end of National Apprenticeship Week. I saw at first hand the great experience and opportunities that apprenticeships are providing young people. across Lincoln and Lincolnshire. There was an awards ceremony for apprentices at The Gelder Group at various stages in their career – from youngsters excluded from school, through to university students from Lincoln’s universities who are mentored by Gelder Group employees. I presented certificates with Steve Gelder MBE and witnessed Bradley Robinson being signed up from the Gelder Academy to the Gelder Apprenticeship Scheme, and also the first Higher Apprenticeship in Horticulture being offered to Rebecca Gilliatt. After my visit to The Gelder Group, and a number of other meetings with constituents, I went to Lincoln College. where, among other things, I had afternoon tea with the College’s apprentices. First stop at the college was the LEAP & Lincoln College “Great British/Lincoln Bake-Off” which I found fulfilling in many ways. Congratulations to all four entrants. but specifically Lindum Group and Lincoln College who won the presentation and taste prizes respectively! And thankyou to all those who supported Comic Relief by buying lots of cake! I then met with and chatted to a number of the apprentices who work at Lincoln College, and at the sister site at Newark College, about their experiences and opportunities. and answered some of the apprentices’ questions (before buses needed to be caught!).
When Labour were in power, the number of people not in education, employment, or training – the so-called NEETs – soared in the UK as they fell internationally. Between 2000 and 2009, the NEET rate for 15-19 year-olds in the UK rose from 8.0 per cent to 9.6 per cent, while the OECD average fell from 9.4 per cent to 8.4 per cent. Over the same period, the NEET rate for 20-24 year-olds in the UK rose from 15.4 per cent to 19.1 per cent, while the OECD average fell from 17.8 per cent to 17.7 per cent. By 2009, the UK had worse NEET rates than Greece, the Slovak Republic and Poland. Conservatives realised that positive action needed to be taken and we took it.
There are now record numbers of people taking up an apprenticeship, with a million starting one in the last few years. Across Lincoln, 1,340 people started apprenticeships in the academic year 2011-12, and another 420 have started in the first quarter of this academic year. This is a percentage increase of 86 per cent compared to Labour’s last year in office. Further, there were 46,790 apprenticeship starts in the East Midlands in 2011/12, which represented 14.5 per cent increase from the previous year.
And unlike under the Labour Government, all apprenticeships are worthwhile. This is amply demonstrated at Gelder Group and many other Lincoln firms and businesses such as PK Automotive that hosted a visit recently by the former Apprentices Minister John Hayes MP. my colleague from South Holland and The Deepings. Apprenticeships now last at least a year and are meaningful. with those who undertake them able to use the skills learnt and real work experience within the same company, or take those skills and experiences with them when they move to different jobs in their working careers.
This good news comes as the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) have released a forecast that apprenticeships completed over the next decade could contribute productivity gains worth up to £3.4 billion a year to the economy by 2022.
Our drive as Conservatives to reform and strengthen apprenticeships, raising standards and making them more rigorous and responsive to the needs of employers means that an apprenticeship is increasingly seen as a first choice career move.
Conservatives in Government are investing in apprenticeships to ensure that the country has the skills it needs to compete in the world. and people across our City and County are benefitting from this.
Clearly, apprenticeships have a very positive impact on individuals, businesses and the economy. – and this was very clearly illustrated for me at my visits to Lincoln College, The Gelder Group and all the other businesses in Lincoln that I visit that encourage and employ apprentices.
But we need to challenge ourselves to go even further. That is why I want it to be the new norm for young people to either go to university or into an apprenticeship that leads individuals to a great start in their careers. We need to look at how we can expand apprenticeship opportunities so that they are available to all young people who are ready and eager to take them up, and aspire to better themselves throughout their lives and working careers.