The prime minister has said she “does not recognise” potential cuts of between 30 to 50 per cent to apprenticeship funding.
The devastating cuts, exclusively revealed by FE Week in August, were raised during prime minister’s question time in the House of Commons today by Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield.
He asked Ms May to congratulate engineering firm ADI Group for its scheme to boost the interest of 14- to 16-year-olds in engineering, then said: “Her words of congratulation would mean rather more if they were not accompanied by cuts of between 30 and 50 per cent in apprenticeships funding, a programme which the Institute of the Motor Industry has described as a “car crash.””
In response, Ms May said: “I, of course, am happy to commend the company that he has referred to, and of course the West Midlands are an important driver in terms of engineering skills in this country, but I simply don’t recognise the situation he’s set out in relation to apprenticeships.”
She continued: “We’ve seen two million apprenticeships created over the last six years, we’re committed as a government to ensuring more apprenticeships are being created – that’s giving young people opportunities, like the young people I met when I went to Jaguar Landrover, to learn a skill, to get into a job, to get into the workplace and to get on where their talents will take them.”
Ms May’s comments come after Education Secretary Justine Greening was quizzed by MPs about the proposed cuts during an evidence session for the Commons Education Select Committee this morning.
Ms Greening was asked if she shared the “very serious concerns” about the cuts, particularly in relation to social mobility. She responded by saying she would “look really carefully” at the responses to the ongoing consultation.
The new funding rates for apprenticeships from May 1 next year were unveiled by the Skills Funding Agency in August.
Exclusive analysis by FE Week of those figures revealed that funding for 16- to 18-year-olds in some of the most deprived areas of the country would be slashed by up to 50 per cent.
More than 50 MPs, led by Tottenham MP David Lammy, have signed a letter urging apprenticeship and skills minister Robert Halfon to reverse the proposed funding cuts, describing them as “devastating”.
And last week shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden lodged a series of written questions for the education secretary about the proposed cuts.
The planned funding cuts are the focus of FE Week’s #SaveOurApprenticeships campaign to be launched in Parliament today.
Watch MP Richard Burden’s question and Theresa May’s response in this morning’s PMQs: