Apprenticeships under Labour

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Like Mrs Revill, I am a strong supporter of both Education Maintenance Allowances and apprenticeships (Jan 20). However, she is much mistaken when she says: “Labour made a big mistake by not subsidising the apprenticeship scheme.”

Apprenticeship numbers fell dramatically during the late ’80s and early ’90s. The problem was exacerbated when the then Tory government legislated to prevent councils including minimum apprenticeship training requirements for tenderers.Their mantra was ‘The market will provide’. It didn’t.

Apprenticeship training collapsed. Many good local and regional companies were forced to cut their apprentice-training in the light of fierce competition from companies which didn’t invest in training. Unsurprisingly, this led to a shortage of electricians, plumbers, joiners etc. This was why many private sector employers started importing skilled labour from abroad.

In 1997, there were just 65,000 apprenticeship starts in England. Between 1997 and 2010, the Labour governments invested more than £8 billion in apprenticeship training. In 2009/10, more than 273,000 young people started apprenticeship training – more than four times as many as 1997.

The 2009 Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act was the first complete overhaul of apprenticeship legislation for more than 200 years. It establishes the entitlement to an apprenticeship place for every suitably qualified young person who wants one.

Howard A Knight, (formerly chair, Employers, NJC for Building and Civil Engineering)