Lisa Nandy MP: Giving people the skills to progress
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The week brings together businesses and apprentices across the country to shine a light on the positive impact that apprenticeships make to individuals, businesses and communities.
Young people and adults are ambitious for their families’ futures and want to learn new skills to get new jobs, or progress at work.
The cost-of-living crisis has led people to re-evaluate their finances and career choices and apprenticeships are viewed as an important way of learning new skills and increasing earning power.
Yet over the last decade apprenticeship starts in Wigan have declined by 36% as the Tories have failed to equip individuals and the economy with the skills to meet our national challenges including cutting greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the rising demand for digital skills.
There are now 520 less apprentice starts in Wigan than when the Conservatives came to power and the North West as a whole has seen a drop of 44%.
This is despite the efforts of local businesses and organisations to boost the number of apprentice opportunities.
In 2021, Wigan Council pledged to create 100 apprenticeship and graduate job opportunities within the town hall.
This target was met two years ahead of schedule, prompting the promise of another 100 over the next three years.
Through its Deal for Businesses, the council has also supported many local businesses to take on apprentices.
Another local example highlighted during Apprenticeship Week was the scheme developed by Wigan Athletic Community Trust which has seen apprentice roles introduced across their schools and community development departments.
These apprentices are doing excellent work to support people, young and old, across our borough to remain engaged in community activities and stay physically active.
To help reverse the downward trend in apprenticeship places and support the efforts of local champions Labour will give businesses the flexibility they’re asking for to train their workforce and deliver growth.
We will start by turning the Tories’ failed apprenticeships levy, a tax on employers that is supposed to be used to fund apprenticeships, into a ‘Growth and Skills Levy’.
The Conservatives’ levy has seen millions of pounds that should be used for skills training going unspent.
Giving businesses more flexibility would ensure this money could be spent on a greater range of training courses including basic English, maths and digital skills, so businesses can fill skills gaps and people can gain new skills to progress at work.
As part of a wider package of reform, we would also establish a new taskforce, Skills England, to help deliver the skills needs of the next decade.
Power and decisions on skills spending will be pushed out from Westminster to local communities, so those communities can better match up skills training with their local business needs.
For too long the Tories have been letting down our community with a decade of decline in apprenticeship opportunities.
We need to reverse this and ensure that people at every stage of their lives are enabled to learn, retrain and progress at work.