Vince Cable MP writes: Celebrating our 2 millionth apprentice

December 9, 2014 2:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Business Secretary Vince Cable introduces our two millionth apprentice and explains why her story is now far from unusual:

Today is a very proud day. We have reached an important milestone and a huge achievement in Government. Today, we celebrate our 2 millionth apprentice, sixteen-year-old Paige McConville, who has recently started an advanced apprenticeship at engineering company FMB in Oxford. She will be trained to design and manufacture complex tools for scientific research, with the opportunity to progress to equivalent university degree level while learning on the job and earning her way as she does so.

Paige's story - and her very positive career prospects - is far from unusual. There will be many people like Paige all over the country benefitting from apprenticeships. No Government has ever promised to invest as much in apprenticeships. No Government has ever delivered them in such record numbers.

We have achieved this despite some serious financial pressures. I was determined from day one for this Government to give high quality vocational education and training the same esteem as academic study. We have succeeded in this aim.

From accountancy to pharmacy, fashion design to software design, care work to police work, we've given two million people to chance to gain the skills to get ahead in life. We've helped to finance thousands of businesses, big and small, to grown and compete by recruiting talented apprentices.

The apprenticeship agenda is about quality as much as quantity. Employers have taken the lead in setting simpler and more rigorous standards for apprenticeships in their own sectors. There are now clear expectations for apprentices embarking on careers as butchers, dental technicians, aeroplane fitters, electricians, paralegals and in more than 70 other fields - with demanding tests and tough grading along the way. This means no more "Mickey Mouse" training schemes.

We've just approved 22 new apprentice standards for areas including quantity surveying, digital data analysis, and hair and beauty. Whatever the job, apprenticeships offer a ticket to the very top. Higher apprenticeships are now available up to Masters degree level in prestigious careers such as legal services and space engineering.

I want more companies to enjoy the benefits that others are already seeing from offering high-quality training of this kind. The vast majority of employers who have hired an apprentice believe their business has benefitted. This is just as true of small family firms as it is of big British companies such as BT, Jaguar Land Rover or British Gas. We are also simplifying apprenticeship funding to bring even more small and medium-sized companies on board.

One of my key priorities when I started as Business Secretary almost five years ago was for any young person to have two equally attractive routes to a rewarding career - by going to university or doing an apprenticeship.

We're now well on our way to achieving those ambitions, for which I thank all the businesses and colleges involved, and all those individuals like Paige who are taking control of their futures by becoming apprentices.