SINCE the global financial crash in 2008, most people have accepted the argument that our economy ought to be better balanced in favour of manufacturing and engineering rather than heavy reliance on financial services.
This is music to the ears of those of us who represent constituents in Parliament who work in these industries.
Back in 2003, the idea of apprenticeships was resurrected in the form of the modern apprenticeship, and in the last year of the Labour government 280,000 people started an apprenticeship – that’s more than four times as many as in 1997.
These apprenticeships are vital: they not only help get new employees into companies who want to learn, but also improve the skill level of our local population.
This means that companies from outside have a better incentive to invest in places like the Wirral.
But we need to go further. Despite the recent modest growth in the economy, this month the number of unemployed under-25s rose to 21%.
That’s just under a million young people left on the dole.
Our young people deserve better.
Tory government ministers will quote a recent rise in the number of apprenticeships as a way of masking their inaction on tackling unemployment amongst young people.
But 70% of these apprenticeship placements are not new job entrants but existing employees, and 94% of these apprentices are over 25 years old.
Recently, the Government announced changes to the apprenticeship scheme, and that a group of businesses will form together to propose new standards.
In Wirral, we have some of these great businesses and manufacturers on our doorstep, and I will be meeting with them soon to discuss the Government’s proposals and how we can work together to strengthen and improve them.
We need to look at how we can improve on the quality of apprenticeships so that we can go on to set a global gold standard.
And we need to increase the quantity so that every young person who does not go to university and wants an apprenticeship can access one.
Labour’s independent Skills Taskforce has recently published their review of vocational training, and you can read it online at http://s.coop/skillstaskforce