Apprenticeship policy row

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RULING Labour councillors have accused opposition Lib Dems of making a U-turn on their policy over apprenticeships.

Previously the Lib Dems opposed a scheme to use a Government grant - allocated to help Sheffield’s economy - for a £1 million programme to create 100 apprenticeships for young people.

But the party decided to support a motion praising the project at a full council meeting.

At present, 50 private or third sector organisations have expressed an interest in taking on an apprentice and the first cohort of 15 start training today.

Sheffield Council Labour leader Coun Julie Dore said: “The Sheffield Apprenticeship Programme will support 100 young people into employment, providing up to two years of work experience, whilst also allowing them to gain qualifications.

“We are committed to standing up for Sheffield and working to address youth unemployment, which is one of the central challenges facing Sheffield at this present time. Our scheme works with local businesses to target young people who are most likely to fall out of education, employment or training and are most in need of support.

“It was hard to understand why the Lib Dems were opposing the scheme in the first place, but I am pleased they have now decided to give their backing to this important project.”

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, new Lib Dem group leader, said: “Thanks to Lib Dem influence the Coalition Government has announced a £60m apprenticeship programme to tackle youth unemployment. I’m delighted to see the council is participating in this programme.

“Alone this programme will not be enough - this administration needs to think about how it will tackle the long term problems. However, this is a step in the right direction that will help 100 young people.”