Labour slam Tories for "stealing opportunities" on apprenticeships as enrolments down a quarter

4 February 2024, 22:31 | Updated: 4 February 2024, 22:35

Labour have slammed "botched" apprenticeships levies after the party showed enrolment on the schemes have dropped under the Tories.
Labour have slammed "botched" apprenticeships levies after the party showed enrolment on the schemes have dropped under the Tories. Picture: Getty

By Chay Quinn

Labour have slammed "botched" apprenticeships levies after the party showed enrolment on the schemes have dropped under the Tories.

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At the start of National Apprenticeship Week, Sir Keir Starmer's party highlighted that the alternative route into employment is being under-utilised - blaming the Conservative government for "snatching away" opportunities from those hoping to get a professional job.

Labour said enrolment has fallen by a quarter under the Tories - as shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson vowed that Labour will "transform" the apprenticeship levy if its wins the next general election.

Officials said analysis of Department for Education (DfE) data showed apprenticeship starts reached 457,200 in the 2010/2011 academic year.

Read More: Labour to water-down manifesto in attempt to shrink target of Tories attacks at general election

But Sir Keir Starmer's party said it had since fallen by 120,000 in the intervening years, dropping to 337,140 in the last full academic year of 2022/23.

In the same period, the number of young people choosing to start an apprenticeship fell by a third, according to Labour.

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At a PM Connect event in June, an attendee told Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that their firm, which they said had around 335 people signed up to apprenticeships, was only able to utilise around 54% of its levy. Picture: Getty

Ms Phillipson said: "Labour will boost Britain's skills with our plan to transform the failed apprenticeships levy into a Growth and Skills Levy, giving businesses the flexibility they need to train and upskill their workforce to get our economy growing again.

"With their botched apprenticeships levy the Tories are snatching away thousands of opportunities from people wanting to train, upskill and progress in work.

Read More: Small business council will give firms ‘voice at the table’, Badenoch says

"It will fall to the next Labour government to reverse this decade of decline, with the new wave of apprenticeships and training opportunities that our businesses and communities need."

Labour has also pledged to create a new expert body called Skills England to oversee the national effort to meet industry's skills requirements over the next decade.

There have been persistent calls from businesses for the Government's apprenticeship levy to be reformed, with millions of pounds said to be going unspent and returned to the Treasury every year.

Labour Unveil Its City Policy At Business Conference
At the start of National Apprenticeship Week, Sir Keir Starmer's party highlighted that the alternative route into employment is being under-utilised. Picture: Getty

At a PM Connect event in June, an attendee told Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that their firm, which they said had around 335 people signed up to apprenticeships, was only able to utilise around 54% of its levy.

Mr Sunak told the attendee at the event in Dartford, Kent, that the DfE and Treasury were discussing potential reforms with businesses.

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