At the 2012 Labour conference Ed Miliband called on all employers, public and private, to do more to support apprenticeships.
He also said that local government had an important role to play in supporting apprenticeships and promised that:
‘the next Labour government will ensure that every private sector contract will only be awarded to a large company that trains the next generation with apprenticeships.’
We’ll have to wait until 2015 for a Labour Government at Westminster. But, as we’ve said before, Labour Councils have taken up the challenge. Indeed they are blazing the way in demonstrating what Labour government in action can do.
Leeds Labour Council is exploiting its role as a local contractor to ensure that public procurement embeds apprenticeships in public contracts. All contracts over £100,000 must create apprenticeships, work experience and employment opportunities. This was put into practice with the construction of Leeds Arena. To date the Arena has supported the creation of 82 apprenticeship opportunities.
Getting the message across to young people is one face of the challenge. Leeds City Council has secured support for the creation of a 14-24 apprenticeship academy in Leeds, giving young people and local employers access to opportunities and training.
And the other face is helping businesses, especially small and medium ones, engage with the apprenticeship programme.
This is where Apprenticeship Hubs come in.
Leeds City Council’s Apprenticeship Hub network has received backing from the new Leeds City Region Deal. The Hub will encourage 7,500 new employers to take on apprenticeships, with the aim of generating 15,000 apprenticeships by 2017.
Leeds Apprenticeship Hub was launched last month. It offers free and impartial advice on all things apprenticeship-related.
The Hub will be working with small- to medium-sized businesses across the city and young people aged 16-24 to help match businesses with apprentices and vice versa.
The Hub has already engaged with over 60 businesses that are looking to create new apprenticeship opportunities and has registered 450 young people through the various workshops and events it has held.
The Hub has already delivered a range of sessions for young people interested in starting their careers, including ‘making a winning application’ workshops, online ‘you’re hired’ interview skills sessions and the promotion of opportunities and vacancies to young people across the city. The school engagement programme has also supported over 289 young people with information and advice.
Since 2011, nearly 15,000 apprenticeships have been created in Leeds and currently there are over 200 opportunities available in the city, including kitchen assistants, business administrators and engineers.
Councillor Lucinda Yeadon (Executive Member for Leisure & Skills) said:
“The Apprenticeship hub is a great resource for businesses and young people alike. Already this year the city has taken great strides in seeking to reduce youth unemployment and helping those who may need additional support to make the choices that help them to progress. Taking an apprenticeship route gives young people the opportunity to work for a real employer, earn a real salary and gain a real qualification whilst gaining valuable workplace skills and experience.”
All this is aimed at tackling the evil of youth unemployment.
Alex Sobel agrees with Gordon Marsden, Shadow Minister for Further Education, Skills and Regional Growth
‘Apprenticeships are ‘front and centre’ of Labour’s policy plans. And innovative Labour Councils like Leeds are showing the way, demonstrating that local government is key to delivering the step change we need’.
Labour Local government – Britain is Doing Better, at least at this level.