Ed Miliband to pledge ‘apprenticeship guarantee’ to deliver 80,000 extra annual starts by 2020

An “apprenticeship guarantee” will create 80,000 more starts a year by 2020 if Labour forms a government in May, Ed Miliband will pledge today.

In a speech at a Jaguar Land Rover plant in the West Midlands, the Labour leader will outline plans for a guarantee he claims would allow “every school leaver who gets the grades…to begin a high-quality apprenticeship”.

Mr Miliband will claim new measures requiring firms recruiting from outside the EU or bidding for government contracts to hire apprentices, creating a new apprenticeship fast-stream in the civil service and giving employers more control over the government’s apprenticeships budget will add up to 80,000 more apprenticeship starts a year by the end of the next Parliament.

He is expected to say: “For too long this country has believed we can succeed with just some people having access to world-class education, training and skills. So our plan begins with a revolution in vocational education: A new gold standard vocational baccalaureate in our schools; new technical degrees at our universities; and real high-quality apprenticeships as well.

“At the moment just one-in-10 employers in England offers an apprenticeship. Six times fewer high quality apprenticeships than Germany.

“We can do better, and with our plan we will: the public sector playing its part with thousands of apprenticeships; every firm that wins a major government contract required to deliver apprenticeships; every firm recruiting from outside the EU required to do the same; with businesses having more control over the funding.

“It is time to match the aspirations of our young people with the high quality apprenticeships they deserve. So under the next Labour government, if you get the grades at 18 you will be guaranteed an apprenticeship. That is what I mean by a better plan for working people, a better plan for Britain.”

According to the party, the increase in apprenticeships will be paid-for by “reversing the Tories’ rebadging of in-work training schemes for existing employees”.

This relates to Labour’s pledge to scrap apprenticeships below level three and those which are less than two years in duration and comes after a survey revealed that 93 per cent of apprentices over 25 years old already worked for their employer before starting their apprenticeship.

Labour has also said half of the new starts will come from efforts to “reverse the trend” away from young people doing apprenticeships, but has not explained how this will be implemented.

Martin Doel, chief executive at the Association of Colleges, said: “Apprenticeships are important in helping young people into work, and we welcome political support for them. But they are not the only option.

“Employers and colleges should be given the flexibility to work more closely to develop learning programmes and qualifications which are relevant and up to date, so that young people can gain the skills required for the modern workplace.

“Not everyone is ready to start an apprenticeship – particularly those aged 16 to 18 – and a strong pre-apprenticeship programme should be developed to make sure they are prepared for the world of work.

“Careers advice and guidance needs to be improved to make sure young people can find information about what is available for them when they leave education.”

A spokesperson for the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said: “We support the drive to increase the numbers choosing an apprenticeship and the commitment to ringfence the apprenticeships budget is very welcome.

“We believe that can be done by driving the demand by employers and young people rather than using legislation designed to require employers to employ apprentices.  On the idea that winning government contracts should be tied to offering apprenticeships, our view is that this might prompt companies to train more staff, but it is not something that should be used as a quota.

“Driving growth from legislation simply causes too great a risk of apprenticeships being created for the wrong reasons.

“However we do support Ed Miliband’s proposal that there should be a major increase in the number of apprenticeships in local and national government, government agencies and the NHS.”

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  1. Michael Motley

    “reversing the Tories’ rebadging of in-work training schemes for existing employees”
    I seem to remember that a certain large retailer started their apprenticeship programme, rebadging of their in-work scheme, in 2004 under Tony Blair’s Labour Government and it is still running today, directly funded by the SFA.

  2. “Every leaver who gets the grade”, much easier to enforce minimum school leaver grades on Advanced Level 3 apprenticeships, however 80,000 starts not achievable without Level 2 programmes so are we to see pre-entry requirements placed on the new L2 standards? They may have ‘stumbled’ on a positive proposal as it sends a high profile message to schools, parents and not least students that ‘prior achievement’ will be just as important to secure an apprenticeship as to pursue FE/HE in the future. In the absence of sophisticated Careers Service it might just raise the apprenticeship up another notch in the public domain.

  3. Dean Carey

    I think the Labour Party need to carefully consider how the large variability in success rates for apprenticeships up and down the country will impact on young people and adults wishing to reskill. Given the recent revelations of grade 1 providers dropping down to grade 3/4 in their last Ofsted inspection, Labour will need to exercise caution if they intend to allocate growth to only ‘good’ providers.