David Cameron: apprenticeships will be the new norm

I really did welcome David Cameron’s speech, when he visited a training academy in Buckinghamshire. Perhaps more than ever before, the strength of the Government's commitment to apprenticeships was in evidence.

The Prime Minister outlined that he wants apprenticeships to be ‘the new norm’ – not just a valid alternative to studying for a degree, but also one that could preface degree education. In short, that all young people should have access to tertiary education that can lead not just to a job, but to a rewarding career.

“Britain is in a global race...if we want to succeed in this global race, we have to invest in our number one resource: which is our people.”

David Cameron’s speech outlined the two critical aspects of apprenticeships and pre-employment training in which I’ve always believed. The first is the benefit to the country. As he said, “Britain is in a global race...if we want to succeed in this global race, we have to invest in our number one resource: which is our people”. That’s absolutely spot-on – we have to have the best skills in every UK sector.

The second benefit is more personal – that individuals benefit materially from learning. That’s equally spot-on. Education is the key to not just one door, but hundreds. Without training and skills, people can be marginalised; their options limited. That first rung on the career ladder is elusive, or worse, someone’s entire life consists of stepping onto a sequence of different ‘first rungs’. Pre-employment training creates a sense of purpose, it delivers the skills needed to kick-start someone’s working life – it opens up opportunities.

As David Cameron said, apprenticeships “allow people to rise up and achieve their aspirations” and that there’s “no better way to back people's aspirations than to invest in apprenticeships”. Excellent words, delivering a message loud and clear.

This is a key issue – not just for this Government, but also for the next; for all parties, regardless of ideology. Our young people are important – they need investing in, so they have options, so they have a stronger future, so our country can be a winner in the global race. Who wouldn’t back that?

And it’s not just altruistic, either. According to the Prime Minister, “every pound the Government puts into apprenticeships pays off twenty times over”.

I’m not sure you can get a return on investment anywhere else that’s as strong.

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