My first intervention in Parliament, even before making my maiden speech, was supporting government funding for apprentices. I asked the Minister to double what he was proposing.
And we did double it, and much more besides: in the government of 2010-15 we enabled 2 million new apprenticeships, hugely widened and increased the sectors in which you can do an apprenticeship, and incentivised smaller employers with National Insurance reductions too.
Locally I wanted to lead from the front and so hired my own apprentice – the second MP nationally and the first in Gloucestershire to do so.
All of my apprentices have been a great success and been promoted either in my office or externally. They’re great ambassadors for the apprentice brand, and recruiting and employing them has also enabled me to explain to smaller employers what’s involved in theory and in practice, and generally promote a concept and skill which I know adds value.
In Gloucester, whether employing apprentices, hosting Apprenticeship Fairs, encouraging employers to hire them or bringing the Chancellor and two Apprenticeship Ministers here for meetings, I’ve spent a lot of time on apprenticeships.
It has made a difference: the easiest way to see this is in the apprenticeship and youth unemployment figures. There were 7,560 new apprentices in Gloucester between 2010 and 2016, more than double the figure for the five years before that – and over 28,000 in our county. Meanwhile youth unemployment in our city has come down 75% since 2010.
Today the Gloucestershire Apprenticeship Fair that I organised with the National Apprenticeship Service and The Citizen in 2011 has become an annual “SkillsFest” event, which every young teenager and parents should go to. To find out more see: www.glosskillsfest.co.uk
The Government’s goal in this Parliament is an additional three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 – 50% more than last Parliament. This is pretty ambitious but ambitions like this are good.
Likewise I would love to see 9,000 new apprentices start in Gloucester 2015-20. If you’re interested in finding out more do search online via the government website here: https://www.findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsearch