Public sector bodies forced to make apprentices 2.3% of workforce

Large public sector bodies, including local government and the NHS, will be forced to employ 200,000 more apprentices by 2020, ensuring they make up at least 2.3% of each organisation’s workforce.

Prime minister David Cameron will set out these rules today in a keynote speech that reiterates the government’s commitment to create three million new apprenticeships over the next five years.

He is expected to say: “In our manifesto, we made specific commitments: we said we’d reach three million more apprenticeships. I can tell you, in the three months after the election alone, we delivered 115,000 more – in industries from law to fashion design, aerospace and more.

“And today, we’re going even further, with our Apprenticeship 2020 vision. We will make very part of the public sector – from Whitehall to local government, the NHS to the police – ensure that apprentices form at least 2.3% of their workforce.

“And our 2020 plan will also help an age group that has, so far, missed out: young adults. Just 6% of 16- to 18-year-olds take an apprenticeship at the moment. But with the public sector and the private sector fully on board, we want to increase that, helping us to make sure every school leaver goes into an apprenticeship, work or university – and get the skills they need.”

But local authority leaders had already criticised these centrally-imposed targets, with a paper presented to the LGA’s people and places board in October noting that plans should be opposed – as cuts to budgets would “undoubtedly impact on the local government workforce”, meaning a “legal obligation to hire apprentices would be unhelpful”.

And in September, the British Chambers of Commerce warned that the requirement for businesses bidding for government contracts to demonstrate a clear commitment to apprenticeships would only add “red tape and bureaucracy to procurement opportunities”.

Today’s move also builds on plans unveiled in August to cut off housing benefit for young adults who do not take up jobs, apprenticeships or unpaid work experience.

Cameron’s speech will also include an announcement for expanding the existing coasting schools programme, designed to crack down on schools that don’t show signs of improvement.

The expansion, starting next year, will make these powers relevant to academies instead of just council-run schools, of which there are more than 5,000 countrywide.

In November, education secretary Nicky Morgan MP also revealed that 1,500 teachers would be deployed to the most underperforming schools for three years as part of a new National Teaching Service to rescue schools lagging behind the state system.


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