Every young person who wants to take up an apprenticeship should be able to do so, according to the secretary of state for education and skills.
Alan Johnson said he would be pushing for funds in the government’s comprehensive spending review next year to make sure that every young person who qualified for an apprenticeship had a guaranteed place.
Speaking at the Union Learning Fund conference in London, Johnson warned that the one in three employers that still offer their staff no training at all had to improve. Union learning representatives at the event were told it was their responsibility to push those employers to recognise that the success of their business and the economy as a whole was reliant on investment in their employees’ development.
Johnson said: “Trade unions provide a vital artery into these businesses. The world is going through a seismic change and education and skills will be even more important in the 21st century than they were in the 19th and 20th centuries.”
The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) also revealed at the event – the last to be held before the unions take responsibility for the £50m fund for workplace training – that tackling innumeracy was set to move up its agenda. Helping the 15 million adults in the UK who were unable to do basic arithmetic would become a priority in the year ahead, said David Way, director of skills at the LSC. “We need to make sure learning material in this area is sector specific. The context of the material should be one [adults] relate to,” he said.
The conference came as a report published by the Work Foundation think-tank argued that nations that invested more in research, development, IT and higher education tend to enjoy better economic dynamism.