Shadow Skills Minister quizzes government on apprenticeship drop

Newly appointed Shadow Skills Minister Liam Bryne quizzed his opposite number Matthew Hancock over the drop in 16 to 19 apprenticeships.

Mr Byrne used today’s appearance at Business, Innovation and Skills questions in the House of Commons – his first since he was appointed to the senior post – to challenge Skills Minister Matthew Hancock over the figures released last week showing a drop of 12 per cent (14,600).

“The unemployment among young adults is still over one million,” Mr Byrne said.

“The apprenticeship numbers among those under 19 are lower that they were in 2010.”

Mr Hancock acknowledged some of the decline had been caused by the government stripping some providers of their contracts.

Mr Hancock said: “It is true that we had to take action to remove some low quality providers that focused on the 16 to 19 space, when we introduced rules to make sure an apprenticeship was always a job, which it wasn’t previously.”

The Minister added he would have thought Mr Bryne would have welcomed “more quality” and pointed to the government’s efforts to increase 16 to 19 participation in apprenticeships.

He said: “I would make this point, that the participation in apprenticeships is at the highest level ever and I would have thought that would be something all parties could support. “

Mr Byrne also challenged Mr Hancock for not supporting a Labour policy to require any company receiving a government contract for more than £1m to provide apprenticeship opportunities.

Labour leader Ed Milliband said the policy would have meant a large scale project like the High Speed 2 railway creating 33,000 apprenticeships.

The policy, which was first announced in January, was voted down by the government in March.

Mr Byrne said: “Can [Mr Hancock] explain why he voted against Labour plans to use the power of public procurement to increase precisely these much needed apprenticeships?”

Mr Hancock replied by pointing to examples of public procurement projects which had involved apprenticeships, including the London Crossrail project, which, he said, was the largest public procurement and construction project currently happening in Europe.

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply to Peter Cobrin Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.


  1. The decreasing number of young apprentices was predictable with the raising participation in education and training to 17, combined with a lack of independent careers advice from schools. I have interviewed hundreds of parents and year 11 leavers over the past few months and there is a very definite policy of misinformation to last years year 11 leavers. They and their parents have been told by a number of schools that the change in law means they need to stay on at school. But where they didn’t get good enough results in English and maths I have come across schools saying that ‘you are now free to leave’ unless you take BTEC qualifications in instead of A levels. I will make another prediction. Colleges and work-based providers will be picking up more and more disillusioned youngsters over the next year who have stayed on at school when it was not in their best interests, but in the interests of their schools’ funding.

    I have been concerned about the chasing of apprenticeship numbers and increasing numbers of available frameworks by this and the previous government for the past few years. Elmfield Training typifies what this has encouraged – such training schemes should result in very little profit if they are delivering quality training. Apprenticeships came into existence many years ago to train ‘young’ people in traditional trades. That very basic concept has been lost. We need to get back to those basics of which trades should have apprenticeships (security guard and barista training?) and who should be funded to undertake them. The demise of school link courses for many of our young people with colleges and schools was a terrible mistake. Schemes like ‘Young Apprenticeships’ gave employers the chance to try out young people and for those same young people to develop work skills. All that has happened is that many of these young people are now becoming NEET and being offered traineeships – but two or more years later than they could have been. Can someone offer some leadership in getting the young people of this country back on track or will the damage being inflicted by chasing numbers be allowed to go on and on?

  2. Peter Cobrin

    Pity he didn’t ask the Minister about his failure to ensure adequate information and guidance on apprenticeships, a failure highlighted by Graham Stuart’s Select Committee report, Ofsted and many others. Part of the drop is because of young people’s ignorance of the opportunities out there, many schools’ antipathy to vocational pathways — all of which have happened on this minister’s watch.

    Phil’s point about schools hanging on to to youngsters beyond their learn-by date is as true today as it was when first made several years ago.

    I had hoped that Matthew Hancock could break free of the ideological shackles of Michael Gove. I was wrong.