Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 2 August 2012


Out of the dark clouds of economic gloom comes a bright light.  Apprenticeships are back in fashion big time. On Friday I met the government's senior civil servant charged with promoting apprenticeship schemes amongst employers in this region.

For young people aged 16-18 the government will pick up the bill for training and the employer just has to pay the minimum wage for that age group (less than £3 per hour). For the 19 to 24 year olds the training costs are shared 50/50. The drive on apprenticeships has been in play for three years now (it has cross party support) and is beginning to show results. It might be one of the reasons why even in the teeth of a nasty recession unemployment continues to fall. In this constituency unemployment is 2%.

The benefits of this drive on apprenticeships are manifold. First it helps to correct the over-emphasis on university degrees, some of them less than rigorous, at the expense of more vocational skills. Second, employers can get hold of employees early and train them up in the way that best suits their industry. Young people who are not ready to start an apprenticeship are sifted out, so employers can have confidence that applicants have a minimum level of aptitude. For those who are filtered out, there is an intensive attempt to try and upgrade their skills and attitude until they are ready to start their working life.

Unemployment amongst young people is stubbornly high, but this scheme is starting to make inroads. There are over 700 new apprentices starting this year in Plymouth alone.

You do not have to be a large employer like Babcock to take on an apprentice. (They take over 50 a year in the dockyard). Even tiny businesses can benefit from the presence of a young, enthusiast trainee, especially when the government is paying for training and helping to oversee the whole relationship. At the same time government is looking to lift some of the red tape involved in taking on an employee.

As you all know I have consistently predicted a long hard slog out of this recession. With a solution to the Euro Zone crisis probably two years away and growth in India and China slowing down, there is no cavalry to come over the hill. We have to grind our way back to economic stability by pursuing the right policies relentlessly.

The renewed focus on apprenticeships is very welcome.

posted by Gary @ 09:27