Conservatives call on employers to take on more apprentices

Apprenticeships, apprenticeships, apprenticeships.

The vocational qualification was at the forefront of speeches made during the Conservative Party conference in Manchester last week.

The Prime Minister David Cameron called on large businesses to take on more apprentices during his speech on Wednesday.

“When a balanced economy needs workers with skills, we need to end the old snobbery about vocational education and training. We’ve provided funding for 250,000 extra apprenticeships – but not enough big companies are delivering,” Mr Cameron said.

“So here’s a direct appeal: If you want skilled employees, we’ll provide the funding, we’ll cut the red tape. But you’ve got to show more leadership and give us the apprenticeships we need.”

David Willets, MP for Havant and Minister of State for Universities and Science echoed Mr Cameron’s views, but added that too many young people were failing to take up apprenticeships.

He said that in the three miles surrounding Tottenham, there were 3,100 vacancies on the National Apprenticeship website during the London riots.

“When we make opportunities available we expect young people to take them up. There are no excuses,” Mr Willets said.

John Hayes, Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong used the Conservative Party conference to remind delegates of the increased number of apprentices created by the government.

Mr Hayes, during the ‘Rebalancing the Economy’ session held on Monday, said: “The government has put apprenticeships at the heart of our programme for skills. Apprenticeships are growing beyond labour’s wildest dreams.

“We’ve already delivered 100,000 new places and we will create 250,000 more apprenticeships over this parliament.”

Mr Hayes later announced that the government would be creating 10,000 new higher level apprenticeships at level 3, 4 and above.

He said: “I want to see the vocational route be just as navigable, progressive and seductive as the academic path. I want to give those that learn by doing their place in the sun.”

Mr Hayes was also part of a fringe event called ‘Unleashing the Talent: How do we foster the skills needed for economic growth?’ chaired by the think-tank Demos.

Tom Wilson, Director of Unionlearn, was one of the speakers at the event and said that that it was vital that the quality of the apprenticeship brand was protected.

He added that unions were working with the government and National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) to “crack down on unscrupulous employers who are putting on a few weeks worth of training and calling them apprenticeships.”

The annual conference follows those held by both the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties in the last month.