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This is in order to prevent the UK losing its leading edge in the sector and falling behind competing nations in its post-COVID economic recovery. Entrepreneur, businessman and apprenticeship industry leader, Lawrence Barton, who is also a Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands, has urged the Government to inject £750 million of cash a year to provide more routes to young school leavers. The money will help retrain leavers as technologists, programmers and in other essential roles to help plug the growing gap in apprenticeship starts between SMEs and larger employers.
Changes introduced in 2017/18 to apprenticeship funding have seen numbers rise among larger employers.
While small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), who provide the lion’s share of new jobs, have cut their staff training budgets by 10 per cent.
This includes industries critical to the British economy, such as technology.
As a result, the number of apprenticeship starts in these industries has remained far below the level recorded before the funding changes were introduced.
Mr Barton describes the figures as “alarming”.
Adding that “the technology and digital sector is a great British success story and will undoubtedly be called upon to play a central part in driving the country’s economic growth as it recovers from one of the greatest economic slumps in its history.”
“Without the right skills and expertise”, he added “the industry’s performance will be severely impaired.”
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“The skills stimulus will also play a vital role in stemming the surging tide in youth unemployment”, he argues.
The number of young people aged 18 to 24 making claims for unemployment benefits have rocketed by a third in May alone, far outstripping any other age group.
Evidence from previous economic crashes shows young people are often the worst hit.
Younger workers are more likely to be the first to be let go and the last to be hired when the full impact of Covid-19 feeds through to the jobs market.
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Despite encouraging words from the Prime Minister, who has pledged to guarantee an apprenticeship to train up and provide jobs for every young person in the country, detail underpinning that promise remains elusive.
Lawrence Barton, Managing Director of leading skills and apprenticeships provider, GB Training, commented on the COVID-19 economic crisis saying: “The economic crisis we’re facing is the worst we’ve seen in over a hundred years. It’s critical that industries, such as tech are supercharged and ready to spearhead our recovery out of this crisis.
“Ensuring they have access to the funding and the skilled labour they need to drive us out of this mess is key.”
Lawrence Barton believes that compared to what the government has already spent on keeping the economy alive, £750 million is a “small price to pay”.
Mr Barton echoes what the former Education Secretary, Justine Greening said about not wanting a “lost generation as a by-product of lockdown.”
“I urge the Government to act so that the flagship technology industry can offer young people viable hope of a prosperous future.”
The government has been under immense pressure over the past few months to provide concrete solutions as to how children who have been forced to miss out of school due to the pandemic, can get back “as soon as possible”.
However, the government is due to unveil plans later this week for the full reopening of schools in the autumn.
As of September, it will become compulsory for pupils in all year groups to return to classes, except where there are local surges in infection rates.
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