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Solving the Skills Gap

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The prime minister recently announced a new type of graded apprenticeships to raise the status of apprentice ships in the UK. Although this is a great step forward in getting more highly trained skilled people into our workforce, I couldn't help but feel a little let down by the government's measures.

Don't get me wrong, I am the first to welcome any measure that improves the standard and status of vocational skills in this country but David Cameron's announcement fell a few chips short of a happy meal.

Call me naïve but I thought we might just be lucky enough to get a more fundamental announcement that promised alternatives to leaving school and going on the dole, as outlined in David Cameron's conference speech a couple of weeks ago. I'm still optimistic this policy will be in his manifesto for the next election, allowing us to really start taking chunks out of the 1,000,000 under 25s currently not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs).

I've said time and time again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, that we need to change the way we fund the country's apprenticeships if we are going to get anywhere with solving problems with unemployment and our skills gap. Fluffy measures just won't cut it anymore. What we need is a seamless transition, through schools, colleges, universities, including on the job work training and potentially up to a person's mid-20s, if we're ever going to get the numbers down and the skill levels up to where they should be.

We need to get the correct funding in place for this incredibly vital form of job training as it's the only way we will be able to solve the current skills gap we have in this country, and secure a future that doesn't rely on banking and selling insurance.

But credit where credit's due, David Cameron's announcement will help to redefine the status of apprenticeships in the UK, positioning them as a serious and genuine career path. His announcement recognises that those training in technical professions want to strive to be the very best in their chosen fields, rather than all being classed as qualified or not.

For me if this system was extended into the plumbing, heating, building and electrical trades, my recruitment department would have a much more straight forward job getting the quality of people we are always looking for. It is also a long overdue realisation that a tradesman isn't a bog standard commodity and that to be rated 'Class A' is something to strive for, and will increase the status of such courses within society.

If I could give the government one word of advice it would be to convert the Job Seekers' Allowance into a training allowance that is paid directly to the employers who take on apprentices, instead of straight to unemployed young people. This incentive for businesses will create a scheme that will give our young people a hand up rather than a hand out!

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