This morning I gave a keynote speech at a conference in London on the future of Apprenticeships. As a member of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee I gave an address on the key findings from the Select Committee's ongoing inquiry into Apprenticeships.
In my speech I argued that the rising tide of youth unemployment can be tackled by providing greater support and encouragement to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to take on apprentices. I also spoke about the need for the UK to be more ambitious in our attitude towards apprenticeships and aim for more apprentices to study to level 3 and beyond.
By investing in apprentices we can develop our skills base, tackle youth unemployment and prevent another lost generation from happening. The recent increase in apprenticeships is welcome, but we need to do more for young people. Small businesses are the key. In South Yorkshire there are 40,000 SMEs and youth unemployment in our region at the end of April was 15,000. If less than half of our SMEs took on an apprentice, it would wipe out youth unemployment. Promoting Apprentice Training Agencies (ATAs) will help this happen.
I'm also delighted by today's Sheffield City Deal apprenticeships announcement which includes funding for 4000 new apprenticeships and will see a Sheffield City Region apprenticeship hub created. This is exactly the kind of ambitious action that we need to encourage more small and medium sized business across South Yorkshire to take on new young apprenticeships.