Miliband wants rail link to open route to 33,000 apprentices

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Plans to build high-speed rail links between London, Birmingham and northern England should be used to create up to 33,000 apprenticeships, Labour leader Ed Miliband has said.

Answering qustions at Sandwell College’s new £77m campus in West Bromwich, Mr Miliband said the HS2 project “should be a route across the country, but it should also be a route for our young people”.

Claiming young people were getting a “raw deal” from the Government and parts of society, Mr Miliband said Britain needed a “revolution” in apprenticeships.

Explaining his vision of measures to help more young people enter the job market, Mr Miliband said: “It starts in schools and colleges so that young people can look forward and know that they’re getting gold standard vocational qualifications at 18.

“Then it goes on to working with our businesses – to say for example, in relation to high-speed rail, if you want a Government contract for high-speed rail, you’ve got to provide an apprenticeship.

“We think that could guarantee 33,000 apprenticeships.

“If somebody wants a major government contract it should have to provide apprenticeships for the next generation,” he said.

The Labour leader, who said a country and its future could be judged by how it treated its young people, went on: “It’s about giving people a chance, whether they go to university or not. One Nation is about all of our young people having a future – and apprenticeships and good vocational education is an absolutely essential part of that.”

Any apprenticeships created as a result of the HS2 project would be likely to be a long-term prospect, however, with physical work on the project not expected to start for another decade, with the full London to Yorkshire route not expected to be finished for around 30 years. The full route for the £34.5bn HRS scheme, which will create a new station in Leeds, was revealed this week.

The new Sandwell College campus, which is home to automotive engineering workshops and a working dental surgery for training nurses and radiographers, opened in February last year and caters for around 6,000 students and apprentices.

Apprenticeships are now seen as one answer to tackling the problem of NEETS, young people who have no employment but are no longer involved in the education system. Numbers have been rising since the recession took hold.