West Briton column 21 March 2013

The focus of my past week was apprenticeships; celebrating their successes for the individual apprentices, local employers as well as the economy. Working with employers since 2010, the Government has created more than a million new apprenticeships; 13,070 in Cornwall and over 1,880 here in my constituency. The National Apprenticeship Service local manager, Cathie Kessell, does a great job promoting apprenticeships to local employers as well as working with providers of the educational elements of apprenticeships.

I was pleased to spend time with two apprentices at Pendennis and SKB Sails as well as meeting others, including from Treliske on the Apprenticeship Bus on Lemon Quay. This is a bus that toured around Cornwall with ambassadors delivering leaflets to employers encouraging them to think about taking on an apprentice as well as answering questions from the public and potential apprentices.

During the course of the week £630,000 of additional funding was announced to enable the newly formed Cornwall Apprenticeship Agency to create 650 new apprenticeship placements in Cornwall over the next two years, many of them in the marine sector. Marine industry employers in Truro and Falmouth have a great record of providing high quality apprenticeships which have given many local people the skills they need to build successful careers – this new funding will build on this success.

I have always felt that a vocational career path with hands on learning alongside studying for qualifications should have the same social status as going to university. I am pleased that there are now two paths for young people to choose that both offer high quality learning opportunities and good job prospects. I also think apprenticeships have a very important role in this Government’s plan to rebalance the economy away from dependence upon financial service industries concentrated in the South East of England, to sustainable jobs all around the UK; growing more food, generating more energy and making more things for us to buy and export around the world. Apprenticeships are filling the skilled jobs so many local businesses tell me they need to grow.

With its policy of uncontrolled immigration, the last Labour Government let youth unemployment grow hugely. I am pleased through our concerted effort it is beginning to fall. Over one million new jobs in businesses large and small have been created since 2010.

Sadly but inevitably, with so much investment in apprenticeships, a few training companies have spotted an opportunity to rip off employers. I am very grateful to a local company who informed me that they had been approached by a training company with an offer of free training for their existing staff. It turned out not to be the training promised, rather a rebadged apprenticeship. While apprenticeships are available to existing and older employees this training was mis-sold. The company offering the training has been warned. Following an investigation, if found guilty their ability to provide apprenticeships will be removed. It is essential that all apprenticeships for people of any age are providing high quality skills training.

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