A pledge to double the number of businesses that hire apprentices has been announced by the Liberal Democrats, ahead of its full manifesto launch tomorrow.
The policy was unveiled tonight and FE Week asked, before publication, what the party was taking to be its start figure for this. We were told in response that they plan to double 190,153.
This ambitious base figure was originally provided by the government in February, for the number of firms expected to hire apprentices in next 12 months, following the launch of the apprenticeship levy last month.
The Liberal Democrats spokesperson said the party will aim to achieve its target, in part by boosting the number of apprenticeships in “new sectors of our economy, like creative and digital industries”.
Most recently available government figures showed that 22,980 employers posted vacancies between last August and March this year – which was actually down by 810 from the same period the previous year.
The total number of employers that posted vacancies over the whole of 2015/16 was 37,560.
The party’s press briefing note added the party would invest £7 billion “in our schools and colleges”.
“The Liberal Democrats will reverse cuts to frontline school and college budgets by protecting per pupil funding in real terms and introduce a fairer national funding system, which includes protection so that no school loses out,” the spokesperson said.
The pledge follows a “real-terms” commitment to protect 16 to 19 FE funding per pupil announced by the Liberal Democrats last week.
The party said it will protect FE per pupil funding “in real terms” at £660 million, and “invest in continuous professional development for teachers” through a £165 million cash commitment.
The party’s shadow education spokesperson Sarah Olney told FE Week at the time of the announcement: “Students are being left behind as our educational system is cut to the bone.
“This extra £660 million to protect FE will ensure that students are not taken for granted.”
FE Week checked that this was just referring to 16 to 19-year-old learners, and what in that case did that mean for older FE learners.
A spokesperson said: “The figure is for pupils up to the age 19. But we will be setting out other commitments to support adult learners in our manifesto, which will be out in due course.”
FE Week previously asked the Liberal Democrats if they supported the Association of Employment and Learning Providers’ own manifesto call, made on May 3, for the next government to commit to four million quality apprenticeships over the life of the next parliament.
This would be up from the conservatives’ pledge, before the 2015 general election to create three million by 2020.
A Liberal Democrats spokesperson said in response: “We welcome this ambitious target to grow the number of high quality apprenticeships in the next parliament, and will be setting out our own plans to for an increase in apprentice numbers when we publish our manifesto.
“In the coalition government, Liberal Democrats championed apprenticeships and were proud that more than two million apprenticeships started over that time.
“We believe that high quality apprenticeships are an essential part of building the UK skills base.”
Labour announced, in its manifesto published today, that it would set a target of doubling the number of completed apprenticeships at NVQ level three by 2022.
It would also “set targets to increase apprenticeships for people with disabilities, care leavers and veterans, and ensure broad representation of women, ethnic minority groups, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community, and people with disabilities in all kinds of apprenticeships”.
The Conservative Party is expected to unveil its manifesto later this week.
Update, May 17:
The Liberal Democrats have unveiled their full manifesto plans for FE.
The party said that in government it would:
- Create individual accounts for funding mature adult and part-time learning and training, and provide for all adults individual access to all necessary career information, advice and guidance.
- Aim to double the number of businesses which hire apprentices, including by extending apprenticeships to new sectors of our economy, like creative and digital industries.
- Develop National Colleges as national centres of expertise for key sectors, such as renewable energy, to deliver the high-level vocational skills that businesses need.
- Work with the Apprenticeship Advisory Group to increase the number of apprentices from BAME backgrounds, ensure gender balance across industry sectors, and encourage underrepresented groups to apply.
- Identify and seek to solve skills gaps such as the lack of advanced technicians by expanding higher vocational training like foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas, Higher National Certificates and Higher Apprenticeships.
- Ensure that all the receipts from the Apprenticeship Levy in England are spent on training, aiming to fund a wider range of types of training.
- Aim to meet all basic skills needs including literacy, numeracy and digital skills by 2030.
- Facilitate across the UK an effective and comprehensive system for credit transfer and recognition of prior learning and qualifications.