When it comes to apprenticeships, this government can bring receipts

I got from the shop floor to the floor of the house of commons and our reforms will ensure that opportunity is open for all

I got from the shop floor to the floor of the house of commons and our reforms will ensure that opportunity is open for all

27 Apr 2024, 5:00

I was delighted to be appointed minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education last month.

My passion for skills and apprenticeships comes from my own working life. Before politics, I was in retail. At 16 I joined Asda, and then Lidl at 18. I worked my way up from the shop floor to manage Lidl in my constituency, before running a group of stores there and then running Farmfoods stores across the southwest.

I know, like so many colleagues in retail, that good training and opportunities reap great rewards. I passionately want more of these career routes available to young people across the country.

The government has backed skills training for over a decade, raising the quality of technical qualifications so that learners and employers can build businesses and careers on them. This includes £3.8 billion of investment to strengthen higher and further education over the course of this parliament.

Like my predecessor Robert Halfon and the education secretary Gillian Keegan, I am a huge advocate of apprenticeships. I have been part of running apprenticeship schemes in retail and know the benefit they can offer school-leavers – earning a wage while getting industry-approved training.

It’s pleasing that many in my former sector are making the most of apprenticeships, with the big retail chains now using them to train staff across their business. Lidl, for example, now offers apprenticeships in retail, HR, project management, warehouse operations and property maintenance.

The apprenticeship levy has empowered big businesses to invest in training and enrich their employees’ skills. It means that in 2024-25, we are increasing investment in high-quality apprenticeships to over £2.7 billion.

Like my predecessor, I am a huge advocate of apprenticeships

Our Institutes of Technology have also had a huge impact on the skills landscape, and I saw this myself at Yorkshire and Humber Institute of Technology. These regional trailblazers bring colleges, universities and businesses together to boost skills for key sectors like healthcare, digital technology and manufacturing.

Seventy-seven FE colleges are now linked to an IoT, alongside businesses like Rolls Royce, Siemens, Nissan, Microsoft and Babcock. We’re supporting 21 of these pioneering institutions across England.

IoTs are helping colleges to deliver Higher Technical Qualifications, which were rolled-out in 2022. These qualifications are developed with employers and can lead to prestigious, sustainable jobs in software development, quantity surveying and healthcare – jobs employers are crying out to be filled.

Introducing T Levels for 16-19 year-olds was also about filling a clear gap. This qualification prepares young people to start a job in the real world, as well as providing a firm foundation for further study or training. Launching the qualification in 2020 was considered a gamble, but T Level students have already proved their worth.

The first two cohorts achieved an impressive overall pass rate of over 90 per cent. And our Technical Education Learner Survey for 2023 tells a really positive story about the longer-term outcomes of the first T Levels cohort (2020-2022).

Almost all T Level completers were in education or employment 9-10 months after their course, with 75 per cent progressing to education or employment in their general T Level field. Almost a third of those who progressed to employment and apprenticeships did so with their industry placement host, showing the value of T Level placements to employers and young people.

I know there’s plenty more to do to ensure that opportunities to thrive in technical education reach every part of the country. We want more providers to offer T Levels, and we need to work with apprentices, employers, assessment organisations and training providers to drive-up apprenticeship achievements.

I will be taking my passion for improving skills from the shop floor in retail, to the floor of the House of Commons as skills minister. Whatever career path people want to take, we will back them with high quality courses. I can’t wait to work with FE providers and employers across the country to deliver the skills Britain needs.

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2 Comments

  1. Balance

    Excellent, another statistical cherry picker.

    On T levels “The first two cohorts achieved an impressive overall pass rate of over 90 per cent”. Lets not think about retention.

    On the levy “The apprenticeship levy has empowered big businesses to invest in training and enrich their employees’ skills. It means that in 2024-25, we are increasing investment in high-quality apprenticeships to over £2.7 billion”. Lets not mention the big lump of levy income that never makes it out of the Treasury coffers and into the budget.

  2. Concerned Tutor

    Someone is completely deluded, but blowing smoke up his own backside is something he has to do.
    The T Levels were pretty poor and still rife with flaws and the removal of BTecs is having drastic impacts on the 2024/2025 cohorts.