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OPINION: Peterborough must reverse decade of decline in skills and training

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National Apprenticeship Week is an opportunity to celebrate the work of businesses, the college, and others in bringing new opportunities to our city.

Apprenticeships were at the heart of Peterborough’s industrial heritage, and they are critical to building a prosperous future for the city with better-paid, secure jobs for those growing up here.

But we need government to play its part.

Andrew Pakes is the Labour & Co-operative Parliamentary Candidate for Peterborough.

Andrew Pakes is the Labour & Co-operative Parliamentary Candidate for Peterborough.

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According to the latest government data, apprenticeship starts have declined by forty per cent in the Peterborough parliamentary constituency over the past decade, as the government has failed to provide the support necessary for business and learners.

The Conservatives have overseen a decade of decline in skills and training opportunities which is making Britain poorer.

Businesses are unable to fill job vacancies and are being held back by a lack of people with the skills they need to thrive.

Our public services, like the NHS, have growing skills shortages.

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Too often, I hear from businesses, educators and young people who have the ambition to do an apprenticeship but come up against a system that doesn’t work for them. Last month, I had the privilege of meeting engineering apprentices at Peterborough College to hear their stories about how we can boost skills and opportunities in the city.

Dr Alan Whitehead

I took Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister, to the college with me to back plans for a new Green Technology Centre.

New research from the Co-op has revealed 1 in 3 of young people aged 12-18 are more likely to choose an apprenticeship for their career path, compared to three years ago – and for nearly two-thirds of these young people, the increase in the cost of living is something that makes them more likely to choose this path.

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Across Peterborough we have young people looking to learn a trade or vocation – and businesses who need skilled workers – yet the system makes it too difficult to match them up.

We need to make it easier for businesses to sign up apprentices and ensure the college has the secure funding to attract the staff that will support our young people into their professional lives.

The Co-op report also identifies serious flaws in the government’s current approach.

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Despite rising demand for apprenticeships, over £600 million was returned to government in the last year from employers, which could have funded over 60,000 apprenticeships.

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The Apprenticeship Levy is crying out for change but is left stuck in the slow lane as Ministers lurch from crisis to crisis.

Just imagine what Peterborough’s businesses could do with that money if the system was flexible enough to provide the training for the roles we need?

I’m not a traditional politician.

You don’t often see working class people like me stepping into bear pit of our current political environment.

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I come from a long line of boilermakers and metal workers – the skilled workers that made this country great.

And who, equipped with skills for jobs to meet today’s generational challenges, can make this country great again.

That is why I back calls from the Labour Party, CBI, Tech UK, and other leading industrial bodies for reform of the levy.

Labour is calling for a new plan so that the Apprenticeship Levy can be used on a wider range of training courses that businesses tell us they need, so adults can gain new skills and businesses can grow.

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We’ve been left behind for too long here in Peterborough. Our future prosperity requires better, more secure jobs. We have the talent in the city, now we need a government on our side that will unlock it.

There is a lot to celebrate in National Apprenticeship Week, but a lot more we need to fix.

Labour has a plan to do just that.

 

Andrew Pakes is the Labour & Co-operative Parliamentary Candidate for Peterborough.

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