Apprenticeships 'neglected by Tories', claim Labour, as Sir Kier in Black Country

Young people and employers "have been let down by a decade of Conservative failure on skills and training", Labour has claimed, as leader Sir Keir Starmer was in the Black Country on Monday.

 Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer

Ahead of a planned visit to Sandwell College by Sir Keir, shadow education secretary Kate Green argued apprenticeships had been "neglected by successive Conservative governments".

According to the party's own analysis, Labour claimed apprenticeships had "declined by a third since 2015, with a particular drop among young learners".

It added that for under-25s, apprenticeship starts had "declined 40 per cent in five years", with apprenticeship starts "falling by 52%" among young learners from the poorest backgrounds.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Kickstart scheme had found employment for "only one in every 29'' young people who had lost work during the pandemic, Labour added.

Sir Keir said: "Young people who need opportunities to gain new skills and employers who need a growing pool of talent to rebuild after this pandemic have been let down by a decade of Conservative failure on skills and training.


"Labour's Jobs Promise would give young people the opportunity to learn and earn, gaining the skills they need to progress into secure employment."

The party said it would provide "quality training, education or employment opportunities for young people who have been out of work, education or training for six months", adding it would also "create 400,000 secure jobs in low-carbon industries across the country such as steel and the automotive industry".

Labour called on the Government to use the apprenticeships levy "underspend" to create an apprentice wage subsidy, arguing this could have created 85,000 new apprenticeship opportunities for young people aged 16 to 24 in 2020.

Apprenticeships in sectors including health and care, engineering and retail had seen starts "decline by over 128,000 since 2015", the party added.

Ms Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston, said: "Apprenticeships should be a gold standard training opportunity, but they have been neglected by successive Conservative governments which have entrenched inequalities and denied young people the opportunities they need."

A Government spokesperson said: "Making sure people can gain the skills they need to get good jobs is at the heart of our ambitious programme of further and technical education reform.

"We published our Plan for Jobs and the pioneering Skills for Jobs White Paper at the start of this year, and through our Kickstart scheme we have created over 180,000 jobs since it launched, with the total number of young people starting their placements having doubled in the last four weeks.

"As part of the new Lifetime Skills Guarantee, our Free Courses for Jobs also offer adults the opportunity to learn and develop the skills they need at any age."

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