From education to employment

Inspiring youth to ensure long-term skills, by Kevin Brennan MP

Any opportunity for young people to develop a new skill or craft, to excel in a chosen subject or to build expertise in a business setting is an opportunity that cannot be missed. Apprenticeships provide that opportunity.

Earlier this month, as part of National Apprenticeship Week, I visited 17 young apprentices on their music industry master class. It was a chance for me to witness first-hand how a London-based social enterprise is helping local youngsters gain the skills needed to enter one of this country’s most vibrant industries.

I returned to Westminster inspired by the level of knowledge and enthusiasm I witnessed. I’m pleased to report I wasn’t the only one impressed by the talent young apprentices showed.

A total of 45 MPs, council CEOs and a Regional Development Agency (RDA) chairman, went ‘back to the floor’ during the week to experience life as an apprentice. My BIS colleague Lord Young, who started his career as an apprentice, visited apprentices at London Underground.. Business Minister Pat McFadden spent time with apprentices at a Morrison’s supermarket. The retail chain confirmed it will offer 20,000 apprenticeship places in the next year.

The aim of the week was to highlight to businesses some of the advantages of providing apprenticeship programme and to encourage more youngsters to see apprenticeships as a viable training opportunity.

A decade ago, the number of apprenticeships on offer was in decline but we’ve now reversed that trend and by the end of last year over 143,000 people had completed an apprenticeship. That’s huge progress and evidence that employers are increasingly recognising the benefits of hiring apprentices.

Funding for apprenticeships has also increased, by almost a quarter between 2007/8 and 2009/10 to over £1 billion. In January, we announced a £140 million package to create an additional 35,000 apprenticeship places over 2009/10, with at least 21,000 of these within the public sector.

Our message is clear. We must develop and inspire the talents of the UK’s younger generation to ensure our businesses have the right skills in place to compete in the decades ahead. By 2013, every young person will have the option of an apprenticeship and I hope as many as possible will take up that opportunity.

Kevin Brennan is Minister for Further Education, Skills and Apprenticeships

Read other FE News article by Kevin Brennan:

New IT courses will boost online confidence, writes Skills Minister Kevin Brennan

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