Increasing the number of young people entering apprenticeships is a laudable aim by the Government which rightly enjoys the support of both private and public sector employers.
Apprenticeships must never be viewed as being somehow inferior to attending university and gaining a degree. Not all young people benefit from university, and apprenticeships offer a route into work whilst also earning a wage.
Yet there are flaws in the Government’s scheme, as demonstrated by the difficulties being experienced by Yorkshire’s biggest local authorities. A funding formula that links recovery of money paid in training levies to the number of apprentices recruited is placing councils in difficulties.
This is proving a particular problem in rural areas such as North Yorkshire, where a target for the number of apprentices is not only unrealistic, but exceeds the number of young people likely to take up such places.
The target also begs the question of how apprentices on relatively low starting wages would support themselves, or find affordable accommodation, in areas where people on much higher pay are already finding they are priced out of the housing market.
The Government needs to rethink its funding formula on apprenticeships, so that the link between levies and recruits is less rigid.
Proper consideration must be given to those who live and work outside the large towns and cities, and it would make sense to listen more closely to the councils in agreeing realistic and achievable targets for the number of apprentices to be recruited.
Yorkshire’s councils are no less keen than the Government to help young people along the path to good jobs and rewarding careers. Ministers should heed the concerns of the local authorities and co-operate with them.