Labour would establish an official pre-apprenticeship programme, and support apprenticeships for care leavers, veterans and people with disabilities, according to the shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden.
During his speech at the Annual Apprenticeships Conference, Mr Marsden made clear his support for technical education, and hit out at “the lack of adequate resources” the government is putting into the new Institute for Apprenticeships.
In all, he made new five policy objectives from the state, committing his party to:
1.Targets to increase apprenticeships for people with disabilities, care leavers and for veterans.
2. A system of traineeships to work as “an official pre-apprenticeship programme”.
3. “Specific support” to cover apprentices’ travel costs, which he said currently run to an average of £24 a week – a quarter of their earnings if they’re on the minimum wage.
4. Devolving apprenticeship funding to local combined authorities or metro mayor regions provided they have a strategy to achieve it
5. Incentives for large employers to “overtrain apprentices to fill skills gaps in the supply chain and the wider sector”, perhaps including subsidising the administrative costs of that training.
He said that the Local Government Authority is afraid the levy would cost them up to £207 million every year, and wants the money it will raise to pool it locally so councils can “create apprenticeships to fill local skills gaps and meet local employers’ needed”.
Mr Marsden also talked about the impending threat posed by Brexit to technical workers, pointing to a skills shortage in the construction industry, which he says is at risk of losing 200,000 jobs.
“We need not only to scale up areas of traditional apprenticeships in manufacturing and industry, but also grasp the potential for great expansion, including for high-quality apprenticeships in the service sector,” he said.
“There are growing demands in social care, leisure, and visitor services, as well as digital and creative industries, and we must do everything we can to meet these. Increased automation is changing the world of work and jobs. That is why the service sector will be so crucial.”
He also took a moment to pay tribute from the stage to the victims of the attack in London on Wednesday in which four people died. He only made the decision to travel to Birmingham at the last minute, and extended apologies from his ministerial counterpart Robert Halfon, whom he said had been disappointed not to come.