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Not every young person wants to go to university, or indeed can afford to. From a young age, we should be promoting the range of options available post-school, but the Government have seen fit to scrap work experience at key stage 4 and career guidance. Insufficient apprenticeships are available for those who want one, particularly for 16 and 17-year-olds. Rotherham college of arts and technology faces a cut in its funding that means that it will lose 280 places for this age group, despite 14.7% of young people in Rotherham being unemployed—twice the national average.
In Rotherham, we are particularly short of apprenticeship places for engineering, even though we have the advance manufacturing park in the area. The main obstacle employers cite when looking to take on an apprentice aged under 21 is the perceived bureaucracy involved. However, this week, Tata Steel in Rotherham has announced 29 apprenticeships, and other organisations there are also proactively looking to increase the number of apprentices they support. I understand that some employers are nervous about the investment that they will need to make in a young person before seeing any return. However, my experience is that this initial investment pays off tenfold, as employers have a worker who understands their systems and is keen to demonstrate commitment.
I urge the Government to use public procurement to boost apprenticeship numbers. For a company bidding for a public sector contract worth more than £1 million, part of its contractual obligation should be to provide apprenticeships. This recommendation was supported by the cross-party Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, but to date has not been acted on. I mentioned the lack of placements for engineering apprentices in Rotherham. If the Government adopted this policy in public procurement, High Speed 2, which will come through Rotherham, would create 33,000 new apprenticeships throughout the country, immediately making obsolete the problem of the lack of engineering places.
For me, the only way out of a recession is to work our way out. I urge the Government to support apprenticeships more fully to enable our young people to do that. Because of that, I support the motion.