As minister for skills, I am responsible for ensuring that we create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.
Delivering this commitment is not just important for my career, or the government’s chances of re-election – though at least one of us will get fired if I fail! It is crucial to the future prospects of businesses in and around Grantham and of young people growing up here. Because apprenticeships are the best way of giving young people the skills they need to build a career. By combining work with education, and giving people a chance to earn and learn, apprenticeships help people become more productive at work, and their employers become more competitive and more profitable.
Don’t take my word for it. Just look at the evidence. If you complete a Level 2 apprenticeship, three to five years later your income will be on average 11 per cent higher as a result. If you complete a Level 3 apprenticeship the average impact is even greater – boosting your income by 16 per cent three to five years later. And employers find that staff who have benefited from the employer’s investment in apprenticeship training are much more likely to stay, and resist tempting offers from competitors.
There are lots of local businesses who are already doing great work with apprentices. A couple of weeks ago I met two impressive young women doing apprenticeships at aUK, the hair, beauty and fitness company in Grantham. Local engineering firms like Pentangle in Grantham, Bernard Holmes in Billingborough and Cummins Generators in Stamford offer local people fantastic opportunities to acquire skills in precision engineering and other manufacturing techniques.
Over the next two years, the government is redoubling its efforts to get more employers to offer apprenticeships. From April 2017 we are asking larger companies to pay a new apprenticeship levy – in exchange they will receive vouchers that they can spend on apprenticeship training for their staff. We will also be requiring all government agencies and public sector employers to offer apprenticeships. And insisting that companies that win government contracts do the same.
By 2020 I hope that thousands of people in this corner of Lincolnshire will have completed high quality apprenticeships and that hundreds of employers, large and small, will benefiting from the skills that they will bring.