Robert Halfon MP reveals his ambitious vision to boost skills and create opportunities for every young person

GUARANTEEING the apprenticeship guarantee – Robert Halfon MP reveals his ambitious vision to boost skills and create opportunities for every young person

On Tuesday 30th June, Robert Halfon MP for Harlow will reveal his vision for delivering the apprenticeship guarantee at an event organised by the Edge Foundation and chaired by journalist and television presenter, Steph McGovern.

Robert, Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, will argue that the economy was already changing and being impacted by automation, AI and robotics well before the COVID-19 pandemic. He will highlight the mounting challenges already facing those seeking apprenticeships before lockdown – including declining opportunities and levy funding aimed increasingly at middle management apprenticeships rather than kick-starting young people’s careers.

Echoing findings from Edge’s own Report on the impact of Covid-19 on education, Robert will suggest the impact of the pandemic on the economy is severe. He will say that he believes the strongest impacts will continue to be felt by younger people and the most disadvantaged families.

He will reiterate his rallying cry, already backed by the Prime Minister, for the guarantee of an apprenticeship for any suitably qualified young person who wants one. He will say:

“With evangelisation from the Prime Minister, with detailed policy worked through by the Government, think tanks and pressure groups, we must be able to come up with a really exciting apprenticeship offer for young people. It was not so long ago that Tony Blair talked about “university, university, university” and achieved the target of 50% of students going to higher education. Surely, the same can be the case if we have a real will for apprenticeships, with our battle cry: “Skills, skills, skills”.”

Edge Foundation CEO, Alice Barnard says, “The Edge Foundation are longstanding champions of apprenticeships and the amazing opportunities that they offer. As we set out in Our Plan for Apprenticeships, the ambition of more apprenticeships for young people is a brilliant one. But apprenticeships are fundamentally real jobs, so at this very challenging time for the economy, a significant injection of resources and support would be needed to make a reality of the guarantee.”

Robert will propose the guarantee should be delivered by:

Rebalancing the Levy with the pot being used primarily on apprenticeships for 16-24 year olds and to tackle disadvantage.

Looking to the public sector to lead the way, with a massive increase in jobs and apprenticeship opportunities. This should be delivered through a much higher target for public bodies, greater accountability and procurement.

Providing financial support to small businesses and organisations. As the furlough scheme winds down, the £3 billion National Skills Fund should be used towards covering training costs and the first year of salary costs for small and medium businesses taking on young apprentices.

Cutting red tape and sweeping away any remaining bureaucracy that surrounds the apprenticeship programme and makes it harder for small businesses and third sector organisations at the forefront of our recovery to engage.

Radically expanding degree apprenticeships and reforming the levy so that much more can be used for degree apprentices. We should re-start the Degree

Apprenticeship Development Fund (DADF). We need wage subsidies for employers taking on degree apprentices. Over the next decade, universities should work towards a target of 50 percent of their students undertaking degree-level apprenticeships.

Putting apprenticeships at the centre of our overseas aid effort by transforming the existing ICS into an Apprenticeship Service Overseas (ASO).

Robert Halfon will call for proper targets for schools in terms of encouraging their pupils to go on to apprenticeships; proper enforcement of the Baker Clause; proper engagement from Ofsted on this issue; a proper UCAS-style system for FE, Skills and Apprenticeships; proper destination data that puts getting an apprenticeship on a par with going to university and a proper National Skills Service – a one-stop shop for careers advice and work experience, putting an end to the duplication of national careers organisations and giving every young person a quick and easy route into an apprenticeship.

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