Boris Johnson has described them as the key to unlocking opportunities for young people and last year promised that every youngster who wants one should be able to get one.
But as Onward, the Tory’s favorite think tank, warned today, a shortage of apprenticeship places for young people is hampering the Prime Minister’s upgrade programme, particularly on Merseyside.
New figures showing how the number of apprentices has fallen nationally reveal that one of the ten worst affected parliamentary constituencies is in the region. In the parliamentary constituency of Wallasey there were 740 apprenticeship places in 2018/19 compared to 1,710 in 2011/12, a drop of 57%, according to Onward’s analysis of government data.
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Other patches of Merseyside to feature in the top ten were Garston and Halewood, Liverpool Wavertree, Liverpool Walton, Knowsley, Birkenhead and Bootle, political bulletin The Northern Agenda reports.
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And MPs from the affected areas said the findings showed the government was failing young people in working-class areas and that the prime minister’s ‘upgrade’ mantra was ‘nothing more than empty words and bullshit’. ‘hot air “.
Onward’s research indicates that a sharp drop in the number of small businesses offering apprenticeships and a shift from entry-level apprenticeships to higher-level apprenticeships means that fewer school leavers go on to become apprentices and more established professionals in large companies bring them in to supplement their existing skills.
This means that, as large companies have increased the number of apprentices they take on, fewer and fewer of them come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
And the trend is much more pronounced in the northern “red wall” seats that the Tories hope to win back in the next general election. Between 2011 and 2018, the number of people starting an apprenticeship in the Red Wall fell by a third and fell in all but two northern constituencies.
In Merseyside, Garston and Halewood saw a fall of 56%, Liverpool Wavertree 55%, Liverpool Walton 53%, Knowsley 53%, Birkenhead 50% and Bootle 49%.
According to Onward, the increased difficulty for working-class young people to access apprenticeships is largely caused by the government’s reforms over the past decade, including its flagship apprenticeship tax.
Its report, Course Correction, says apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds need to be fully funded to bring them into line with A-levels funding.
He says regional mayors should have more responsibility for delivering apprenticeships and should have more power in this area, especially when working with small local businesses.
And the report says big companies should be encouraged to hire school leavers, while big companies that hire headteachers beyond their apprenticeship tax fund should not be subsidised.
Will Tanner, director of Onward, said: ‘Apprenticeships don’t deliver and without far-reaching reform they will run counter to ministers’ ambitions to level the country.
Labor MP Maria Eagle said: ‘Much has been said about ‘Leveling Up’ but this report shows that for places like Garston and Halewood the slogan is nothing more than empty words and hot air .
“Apprenticeship should be a benchmark training opportunity, but it has been overlooked by successive Conservative governments who continue to entrench inequality and deny opportunities to young people in Garston and Halewood.
“Companies are being excluded from creating apprenticeship opportunities by the failure of the government’s apprenticeship tax. The government is expected to use the £377m of expired Apprenticeship Levy funds to help employers cover the wages of 100,000 new apprentices aged 16-24 this financial year.”
Liverpool Wavertree MP Paula Barker said: “Onward’s research once again highlights how badly the government is failing young people in working-class areas like Liverpool Wavertree.
“The country is crying out for the next generation of workers to be encouraged to engage in the training needed to embark on skilled, well-paying careers in key industries. Instead, young people too often face a choice between spiraling student debt or low wages, precarious work on zero-hour contracts.
“We need the government to fully fund thousands more apprenticeships, particularly targeted at deprived areas, with more power given to our city region mayors to work in partnership with businesses to deliver the apprenticeships our regions have need.”
MP for Bootle Peter Dowd said: ‘The government has been talking about a good game on learning for ten years now but according to new Onward research access to learning has dropped and in my constituency , on its own, it shows one of the biggest drops of nearly 50% in learnings.
“I strongly believe that an apprenticeship is a great way to bring new perspectives to a business and hone the skills of the next generation. I have wanted to take on an apprentice for some time, and especially during this difficult time for young people. So, I decided last year to take on an apprenticeship. I’m glad we managed to employ a local voter to join the team and earn some money while learning.
The Ministry of Education defended its approach. A spokeswoman said: “Comparing statistics from 2015, before our apprenticeship reform, with today’s statistics is fundamentally misleading. Before our 2017 reforms, too many apprenticeships were of poor quality and not didn’t give people the skills that employers needed.”
She added: “The vast majority of apprenticeships are now undertaken by young people, and it is great to see the number of people starting an apprenticeship across England so far this year rebounding to pre-pandemic levels.
“We want to see these numbers grow even more so that more people gain the skills they need to build a great career. We’re supporting more small business start-ups with the new levy transfer program and flexible apprenticeships.”
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