PRESSURE is mounting on Ministers to back a North East MP’s campaign to boost the number of apprentices.
Newcastle North’s Catherine McKinnell has put forward proposals in Parliament that would require companies winning large public contracts to provide apprenticeships as part of their bids.
The plan has already been adopted by the Labour party, but has now won support from Conservative MP Robert Halfon.
Mr Halfon, who represents Harlow in Essex, urged the Government to implement Mrs McKinnell’s proposals during a Commons debate discussing opportunities for young people.
She told other MPs that the Government’s approach to apprenticeships was a “PR job” and claimed they did not have much substance.
He said: “Having met a number of apprentices from across Newcastle who work in catering, construction and as motor technician apprentices, I have seen how beneficial they can be to businesses.
“I have a business apprentice in my constituency office in Lemington, who just turned 18 last week and who is genuinely invaluable to my office.
“I encourage all honorable members to take on an apprentice in their office and lead the way,” she said.
The Labour MP said that while she was delighted Labour had adopted her proposals as party policy, the MP claimed she had only received “warm words” from Skills Minister John Hayes and opposition from Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude.
That was despite widespread support from businesses, education institutions, unions and Lord Sugar.
“We simply cannot take the risk of creating another lost generation of young people. We have the tools to make a difference and we have the spending power of public procurement – let us use them,” said Mrs McKinnell.
Mr Halfon said: “I urge the Government to implement that proposal, not just nationally but in local councils. I have called for that repeatedly, and I have discussed it with members of Essex council, which is taking a serious look at it.”
Business Minister Ed Davey insisted the coalition was taking action with 100,000 new apprentices already created within its first year in office.
Page 2 - Osborne accused of ‘choking off’ recovery chances >>
Osborne accused of ‘choking off’ recovery chances
CHANCELLOR George Osborne was accused of “choking off” the recovery yesterday as an increase in private sector jobs was overshadowed by the sharpest fall in public sector employment since records began.
Public sector employment fell by 111,000 in the three months to the end of June to reach 6.04 million, while the private sector added 41,000 to 23.13 million, the Office for National Statistics said. A surge in jobless youths saw the country’s unemployment rate jump by 80,000 to 2.51 million between May and July, the biggest increase in nearly two years. The number of unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds surged 77,000 to 769,000.
The dismal figures come as the Chancellor rolls out £81bn-worth of spending cuts, including hundreds of thousands of job losses, amid warnings that unemployment could hit 2.7 million next year.
But Employment Minister Chris Grayling said unemployment remained lower than it was six months ago and the Government was taking steps to encourage growth and tackle unemployment.
The 80,000 rise in unemployment announced yesterday was “disappointing”, Prime Minister David Cameron said as his Government’s economic policies came under attack. Mr Cameron insisted there was “not one ounce of complacency” about the issue as Labour leader Ed Miliband highlighted rising unemployment among young people and women.
Mr Miliband said the Government’s plan for the private sector to replace jobs lost as a result of public spending cuts was not working.
He said: “The message to all those people who have lost their jobs is the Prime Minister is not going to change course.”