New cross-party commission on apprenticeships launched by thinktank

A new cross-party commission to examine how apprenticeships can help to bridge the skills gap has been launched by the thinktank Demos.

The Commission on Apprenticeships will be co-chaired by the Conservative MP Robert Halfon and Labour’s Lord Glasman, and is due to meet for the first time in the next month.

The group will be funded by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), and will focus on the construction sector, although it will also make the wider case of apprenticeships in general.

It will investigate how to increase the appetite for apprenticeships, both among young people and employers, how to ensure the quality of British apprenticeships is world-leading and how to ensure public money is spent efficiently whilst minimising red tape.

A Demos spokesperson said the commissioner was expected to produce a final report towards the end of the year.

Business secretary Vince Cable welcomed the commission, saying: “Recovery of the British economy can only be secured if we have the necessary skills.

“Construction, in particular, already faces shortages and this could become acute as the recovery strengthens. That is why apprenticeships are crucial.”

Lord Glasman and Mr Halfon will be joined by the chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers Stewart Segal, national policy chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses Mike Cherry, London Greater Authority executive board Member Peter Box and City & Guilds UK managing director Kirstie Donnelly.

Midas Group chair Steve Hindley, construction apprentice Nazir Huseinmiya, CITB director of policy and strategic planning Steve Radley and Carillion Training Services director and general manager Ray Wilson will also be commissioners.

Mr Halfon, said: “The best way to improve living standards is to help people earn more. High quality apprenticeships do just that: better skills lead to better wages.

“As the first MP to take on an apprentice, I know how important an opportunity it can be to someone starting out in work.

“Expanding that opportunity to young people across Britain would not only be a huge benefit to them but also to the construction industry and the economy as a whole.”

Labour peer and fellow co-chair, Lord Glasman, said: “Apprenticeships have a proud tradition in Britain that needs renewing.

“At their best, apprenticeships help people learn from others, build a sense of vocation and deliver work of real quality. Construction is a key sector for Britain, so it is vital senior politicians support it and the future of people working in it.”

According to Demos, increasing the number of apprentices in England to catch up with similar economies would boost Britain’s GDP by £4bn a year.

Demos research director Duncan O’Leary said: “Construction accounts for 2.1 million jobs and 7 per cent of the UK’s workforce.

“If we get apprenticeships right in this sector then we are on the right path.

“At Demos we are delighted to be working with an expert group that crosses party political boundaries.”

Stephen Radley, director of policy and strategic planning at CITB, said: “Construction is in a race for talent that we are only going to win with fresh ideas and fresh thinking. That’s why we are supporting this vital work to drive quality apprenticeship numbers across construction.”