Vince Cable's department failing on apprenticeships

Last week, Mr Umunna accused the Government of exaggerating its success on apprentices

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The Business Department has been accused of an embarrassing failure to hire young apprentices, less than two months after celebrating that it had created 2 million apprentices across British industry since 2010.

The shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, has obtained figures that show Vince Cable’s department currently employs 47 apprentices, only 15 of whom are aged between 16 and 24. Last year, the Government announced plans to double the Civil Service Fast Track Programme to 400 18- to 21-year-olds in 2015. Mr Umunna said that the business department must “do far better in setting the standard”. Last week, Mr Umunna accused the Government of exaggerating its success on apprentices, pointing to a survey showing that 93 per cent of apprentices over the age of 25 and nearly two-thirds of 21- to 24-year-olds had previously worked for their employer.

Mr Umunna told The Independent: “We’ve seen the historic and trusted apprenticeship brand put at risk as in-work training for existing employees has been rebadged under the apprenticeship label.”

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats hit back at Mr Umunna last night, accusing him of making a number of “misleading claims” about their programme.

A Conservative spokesman said that the majority of the 2.1 million apprentices created since the Coalition came to power have been under 25, with an average of 87,000 more young people a year taking this route into work than under the last Labour government.  “A majority Conservative government will go even further, creating 3 million more apprenticeships by 2020 so that even more young people get a decent start in life,” he added.

A Lib Dem spokesman said: “Labour has got a cheek criticising apprenticeships. There are now more apprentices than ever before and over 85 per cent more than there were under Labour in England.”