Follow German model for longer lasting and ‘higher quality’ vocational training

Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall looks to the German system for an apprenticeship model that she would like to see followed in this country.

My dad left school at 16. His formal education stopped but he developed his skills in the workplace.

He trained on the job and studied in his spare time, eventually passing his banking and finance exams.

Together, he and my mum were able to buy a house and create a good life for their children.

You rarely hear that kind of story today. If you leave school without the right qualifications you’re written off.

If you’re in a low paid job you are likely to be stuck there.

All too often, learning stops at the end of formal education — and that’s a huge problem when too many young people leave school without the qualifications they need.

Thanks to the Tories, there are now 500,000 fewer adult learners in the UK than there were in 2010 — a drop of almost 20 per cent from 3,540,500 adult learners participating in Government funded Further Education in 2009/10 to just 2,929,600 in 2013/14.

And the FE sector has faced enormous funding cuts under the Tories: earlier this year David Cameron announced a 24 per cent cut to the FE sector, which comes on top of £1bn worth of cuts to the adult skills budget over the last Parliament.

Further Education has always been a vital route for people who want to get on in life, especially people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It provides a ladder into high skilled, high paid work, giving people a chance to have a career rather than a minimum wage job or a life on the dole.

The Conservatives claim to support aspiration but their dismal record of repeated and deep cuts to FE demonstrate that they only care about the aspirations of a privileged few.

It is in the DNA of the Labour Party to support aspiration for all, no matter where you start from in life. As Labour leader, I’d make sure FE is given the support it deserves.

We’ve got to give people the chance to learn and develop skills throughout their lives.

You can’t have power and control over your own life if you don’t have the skills you need.

We need to take a different approach.

The Labour Party I’d lead would see FE shaped at the local level, so that young people who want to stay in the communities they grew up in have the right skill sets for the local jobs market.

And if we want our young people to be able to compete with the very best in the world then we have to learn lessons from the very best in the world in how we can help them.

If you look at Germany, for example, apprenticeships there are generally likely to last longer and be of a higher quality.

We have to make sure that Britain can support people to get training to a similar extent.

We have to make sure apprenticeships are there are there for young people as well as older workers; and that small businesses are able to employ apprentices as easily as large firms.

We have to enable employers to make sure apprenticeships are providing the right skills, and we need to work with trade unions who are well-placed to advocate for the needs of apprentices — apprentices who can be an important part of the increase in trade union membership we want to see.

Building a fairer, more equal and prosperous society must be the aim of the next Labour government. More support for the FE sector, and better apprenticeships, are a crucial part of that.

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  1. Suzanne Savage

    I wish Liz would explain what she means by ” I’d make sure FE is given the support it deserves.” Does that means she would ensure sustainable funding for FE colleges? This smacks of an empty pledge.

  2. Unfortunately she does seem a little confused about what constitutes ‘formal education’, if her father studied for and passed his banking and finance exams, then that was definitely formal education.
    There are a number of reasons why small businesses no longer take on apprentices, so it would be interesting to hear exactly how she propose to turn back the clock?
    It’s also disappointing that none of the candidates have made any reference to Wolfe’s Report: Heading for the Precipice