UK economy is being held back

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I left school at 15 to become a coal miner and have always been a fan of apprenticeships. They provided the backbone of industry before the Tories destroyed our industries.

That is continuing under the coalition.

The Demos think tank has warned that UK economy is being held back through a woeful lack of apprenticeships. Its report found that just 6.6 per cent of young people aged 16 to 24 are in training schemes – one of the lowest levels in western countries.

More than half of school leavers said they would like to take up an apprenticeship but could not get a place.

Apprenticeship places at top firms are heavily oversubscribed. Defence manufacturer BAE Systems has around 20 applications for every place, financial services group KPMG 12, energy supplier British Gas 50 and Lloyds Bank 60.

Telecoms giant BT has recently announced it is creating more than 1,000 new apprenticeship as well as 1,500 training and work experience placements.

Ministers must realise the economy is currently facing a twin crisis of severe youth unemployment and a shocking productivity gap. Both could be solved in one fell swoop by boosting apprenticeships. Britain is losing the global race and letting down young people by not doing more to skill up.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. Northumberland Adult Learning Service is offering a variety of summer courses, which can offer young people in Blyth Valley a chance to get a decent job.

Just register via www.northumberland.gov.uk/adult learning.

There are just 11 apprentices for every 1,000 employees in England, compared with 39 in Australia, 40 in Germany and 43 in Switzerland.

And fewer than ten per cent of firms in England offer apprenticeships, compared to at least a quarter of employers in other countries.

The Demos report calculated that if the UK were to skill up its population to match its leading competitors, and add 300,000 apprenticeships, it would boost GDP by £4bn.