The Return of the Apprentice

This week I want to share some stats with you that highlight the Return of the Apprentice in our city and county. Since 2010, 6,200 new apprentices have started in the city – more than double the figure for the previous five years – and over 23,000 in the county.

Historically, Gloucester was a major historical provider of apprenticeships. Look at the Wagon Works, the Gloster Aircraft Company, Dowtys and Platt & Fielding and today we are again. But there’s now a much wider choice of employers and sectors, everything is open to either gender, and whereas older residents will remember the days when parents had to pay for their children’s apprenticeships, today the employer pays the apprentice, and the government funds the training. You can earn while you learn – and many are doing just that.

Thanks to changes encouraged in the last Parliament, we now have apprentices in the NHS, GCHQ, nuclear energy, GP surgeries, insurance, law, banking, computer science, marketing, training companies, bus services, the Gloucester Golf Club and even my own office – as well as more traditional employers like engineers, construction companies and hair dressers.

There is virtually no profession for which a vocational training course can’t be designed and receive accreditation.

Gloucester has led the way in the county, and also outperformed other comparable cities like Worcester, Hereford and Lincoln. It’s something we take real pride in here – apprenticeships are in our DNA. There are very successful businessmen and women who started as apprentices now running Delphi, Advanced Manufacturing Ltd, Glos Engineering Training and parts of EDF Energy’s nuclear business, so the youngsters know the sky’s the limit.

What about the future? The Government is committed to seeing an additional three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 – 50% more than in the last Parliament.

I think that the most exciting new opportunity locally is in nursing. There is huge demand for nurses in our county – probably about 400 a year – but previously there was a cap on how many could be trained, and who could provide that training. Potential Gloucestershire nurses lost out, and we’re still importing nurses from abroad at the moment. The new Associate Nurses will need an apprentice qualification, and there’s no limit on how many can train. I hope our FE colleges will be announcing their plans soon. There’s no reason why most of our nurses can’t be local.

So how many apprentices might we hope to see in Gloucester by 2020? I’m ambitious and hope we will see 9,000 new apprentices start during this Parliament. Government can and will help with the training and NI incentives, and ultimately the numbers will depend on the success of our businesses and their growth, which leads me to discuss our exports next week.

Let me know on richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk your feelings about apprenticeships and whether schools do enough to make pupils aware of them.