Apprenticeships ‘under threat’ from Labour, warns Gillian Keegan
The Education Secretary, a former apprentice, said Sir Keir Starmer’s plan to let big businesses spend half the Apprenticeship Levy on non-apprenticeship training would “devastate opportunities” for millions of young people.
There were 276,000 apprenticeship starts last year and last week’s King’s Speech announced placements would be boosted.
The average apprentice salary is £29,901, according to job search site Talent.com.
Under current rules, firms with an annual wage bill over £3million must give 0.5% of total payroll to HMRC, which they can then claim back to spend on apprenticeship training and assessment with a training provider.
Any levy money unspent by big businesses is reclaimed by the Treasury and used to fund apprenticeships in small and medium-sized businesses, Ms Keegan says.
But Labour has said it would give firms the freedom to use up to half their levy contributions on non-apprenticeship training.
Writing in the Daily Express today, Ms Keegan hits out at Labour’s “short-term thinking”. The minister became an apprentice aged 16 at General Motors subsidiary Delco Electronics on Merseyside, and was then sponsored to study for a business degree at Liverpool John Moores University.
Slamming Labour’s plans, she added: “They are the party who pursued a 50% university target, leading to the growth of poor-quality courses that do nothing for young people’s life chances.
“Meanwhile, this Govern-ment has built our technical education system from the ground up. I hope the Labour Party do what they do best and flip back on this flop of an idea.”
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A Conservative source said: “Keir Starmer’s Labour Party would gut apprenticeships – taking away opportunity from millions of young people.
“Yet again they are playing political games with people’s futures. These short-term decisions are anti-aspiration and will hurt businesses, young people, and our economy.
“The Conservatives are taking the long-term decisions that have already delivered over 5.5 million apprenticeships – these are all under threat from Labour.”
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I know how transformational a good technical education can be – it got me where I am today.
As the only degree apprentice in the House of Commons and the first former apprentice to be Education Secretary, I am determined to spread the opportunity to millions more people.
This Conservative Government has delivered more than 5.5 million apprenticeship starts since 2010. Over that time we’ve doubled the funding going to apprenticeships.
Key to achieving this is the Apprenticeship Levy, which incentivises larger businesses to develop apprenticeship programmes or support their supply chains to employ apprentices.
The money they don’t draw on is used to fund apprenticeship training in small and medium-sized businesses, so all companies can benefit from training apprentices.
As a result, contrary to popular belief, 98% of the apprenticeship budget has been spent over the last two years, supporting high-quality apprenticeships for the next generation. This programme has spread opportunity around the country – but it is under threat.
The Labour Party intend to allow big businesses to spend half of their levy on non-apprenticeship training, with no regard for the impact on the small businesses which would otherwise use this money to hire apprentices themselves.
Sir Keir Starmer’s anti-apprenticeship policy would slash the number of apprenticeship starts by 140,000 per year – cutting them in half. This opportunistic, short-term thinking would cut the apprenticeship budget by up to £1.5billion.
It would devastate opportunities, impacting millions of young people and thousands of small businesses, and damaging the economy in the long term.
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