£180m to fund new apprenticeships

Alan Jones,Pa
Wednesday 23 March 2011 15:14 GMT

The Government responded to growing fears about youth unemployment by announcing a £180 million package to fund 50,000 new apprenticeships over the next three years.

Around 10,000 of the places will be advanced level and higher apprenticeship places, focused on small and medium-sized firms.

Chancellor George Osborne said the Government will now be delivering 250,000 more apprenticeships over the next four years compared with the previous Labour administration's plans.

The Government said it wanted to support more places than any previous administration as part of its "strong commitment" to improve the skills of workers.

New grant funding will be offered to firms offering advanced and higher level apprenticeship schemes aimed at addressing skills shortages.

Mr Osborne told MPs that one in four firms in Austria, Norway and Germany offered apprenticeships, compared to just one in 10 in England, which he said had to change.

The Chancellor also announced that 100,000 work experience placements will be offered across the UK over the next two years, five times as many as originally planned.

Latest figures showed that 974,000 people aged between 16 and 24 are unemployed, the highest figure since records began in 1992.

Ben Robinson, chairman of campaign group Youth Fight for Jobs, said: "The Government's plans for apprenticeships and work experience do not cover the scale of the problem, especially with two and a half million unemployed and youth unemployment at record highs.

"With university and even college ruled out now because of this government, these figures will get worse rather than better. We suspect these work experience measures will be working for your dole, doing jobs for free that were previously paid employment."

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "Apprenticeships are at the heart of this Budget because they offer real opportunity to young people, and equip businesses with the skills they need to deliver economic growth.

"By supporting an unprecedented number of places, and doing more to help smaller firms get the highly trained staff they need, this Government is pursuing a drive for vocational excellence that will deliver a stronger, more balanced economy."

Anne Marie Carrie, Barnardo's chief executive, said 40,000 apprenticeships were a "a drop in the ocean", adding: "The Government's growth Budget has left the most disadvantaged young people in the shade.

"Whilst the extra apprenticeships are real opportunities for those who can access them, they are still beyond the grasp of many of the vulnerable young people we work with, including young carers, disabled children and homeless young people.

"We want to see more apprenticeships backed up by a coherent strategy that promises to provide practical and emotional support to these children who are so easy to ignore."

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of university think tank million+, said: "More apprenticeships are welcome but the Government must do more to ensure that young people have a real choice and have the opportunity to achieve a degree or advanced technical qualification or apprenticeship and get a good job.

"The Government has missed an opportunity by not investing in additional university places this year. The freezing of student numbers in 2011 makes no sense. Demand for places is running at record levels and the Government says it is serious about tackling youth unemployment.

Lee Hopley, chief economist at the Engineering Employers Federation, said: "Whilst additional apprenticeship placements are welcome, government needs to make sure the pipeline of suitable students from schools is also being addressed."

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