Thursday, 10 February 2011

Skills For Work: MP dismisses apprenticeship 'snobbery'

Hexham MP dismisses apprenticeship 'snobbery'
by Paul Tully, The Journal

Feb 10 2011
A NORTH East MP has described apprenticeships as the way ahead for the Northumberland economy - and dismissed the “stigma” attached to them.

Hexham’s Tory MP Guy Opperman says the academic approach of recent times has brought “a kind of snobbery” towards work-based learning that has to stop.

But Mr Opperman, launching his own Skills For Work campaign, declared: “Apprenticeships are good for employees and good for employers. For too long, a purely academic approach has been seen as the best choice for all kids.

“But apprenticeships are key to the Northumberland economy.

“There has been a kind of snobbery towards work-based learning that must end.

“It’s great to have young people go on to university, but just look at the economic figures. It is the manufacturing and engineering sectors showing the growth.”

With National Apprenticeship Week up and running, the coalition government has pledged to fund 75,000 new apprenticeships nationally.

By 2014-15, up to £250m will be added to the £398m funding of adult apprenticeships (19+) from the previous Labour government.

And apprenticeships for 16-to-18-year-olds will continue to be fully funded, leaving employers to pay only the apprentice wages.

With over 24,000 unemployment benefit claimants in the North-East now aged between 18 and 24 – almost one-third of the total – the situation in this region has taken on greater urgency. Mr Opperman has posted a petition on his website calling on the government to re-focus post-16 education on basic skills which he says are “the key to employment”.

Extended eight-week work experience programmes instead of the former two-week period are also on the coalition agenda.

Nationwide, around 260,000 under-16s live in homes where no-one has ever worked, and Mr Opperman says: “Work-based training is the key to helping young people break out of that vicious cycle.

“Apprenticeships are good for society not just by helping lift young people out of unemployment but also by training the next generation who will help build a solid economic future for our country.

“However, there is still a feeling in some people’s minds, and forced upon kids, that somehow it is better to go the academic way even if that individual young person would benefit more from vocational training.”

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