Politics

Deprived school leavers in North ‘failed by lack of skills training’

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The numbers doing the courses in “Red Wall” parliamentary constituencies the Conservatives snatched from Labour at the 2019 general election has dropped by a third since 2011.

Meanwhile, some of the greatest increases have been in affluent areas of London like Battersea, Wimbledon, Chelsea and Fulham.

In the report by the centre-Right think-tank Onward, researchers warn that vocational alternatives to university have plummeted in recent years.

Will Tanner, director of Onward, said: “Apprenticeships are not delivering and without far-reaching reform will work against ministers’ ambitions to level up the country.”

“Apprenticeships are increasingly used to upskill existing workers – often graduates – while working-class school-leavers are left short-changed.”

Large businesses have hired more apprentices but fewer are from deprived backgrounds.

Entry-level apprenticeships have fallen by 56 percent since 2011.

Nearly twice as many over-25s are doing them than 19-year-olds. In 2008 the opposite was the case.

The report said the Apprenticeship Levy, which charges businesses for training, had created subsidies for big firms.

It urges fully-funded apprenticeships for 16-18 year-olds; giving regional mayors a role; encouraging big businesses to recruit more school-leavers via apprenticeships; and the publication of data on the careers of ex-apprentices.

Tory Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons Education Committee, welcomed the report and said: “Extending these avenues to all learners will enable every young person to climb the educational ladder of opportunity.”

Martin McTague, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said it was “disheartening to see such a drop off in starts, especially within young people”.

But it was right to focus on how we “can help create jobs for young people”.

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