ES Views: Apprenticeships need to be more equally accessible

Apprenticeships could be key in plugging the skills gap

This week marks the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy — businesses with a wage bill of more than £3 million now have to contribute 0.5 per cent of their salary bill towards this new fund. The Government hopes this will plug the funding gap so it can hit its target of three million apprenticeships.

While I welcome the additional funding this will provide, the Government must not simply shift all the responsibility on to employers. It needs to ensure that the money provides the skills needed for the UK as it leaves the EU so that everyone has equal access to the opportunities a decent apprenticeship can provide.

We are still currently seeing too many apprenticeships for low-skilled jobs. I am calling on the Government to ensure there is a greater degree of progression into the higher level apprenticeships, particularly for women, those from a black or minority-ethnic background and people with disabilities, who are currently missing out.
Fiona Twycross, Labour’s London Assembly economy spokesperson

Since the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, the capital’s businesses have been gearing up for changes in the provision of apprenticeships. One of the highlights was the Apprenticeship Levy, which came into force yesterday.

Apprenticeships are great for London’s businesses as they can bridge the skills gap. The levy will only affect two per cent of businesses and be paid via the same process as PAYE and National Insurance contributions.

The impact of Brexit will also be felt in a market where EU passport holders have made a significant contribution. Our research indicates 44 per cent of business owners anticipate that apprenticeships will offer realistic solutions for a temporary shortfall in local staffing.

We all have a role in making apprenticeships a standard means of getting Londoners trained and working. This marks an exciting time for the capital’s employers.
Andy Wilson, CEO, Capital City College group

Having done an apprenticeship without going to university, I cannot stress how vital the Apprenticeship Levy will be in helping NEETs (people not in education, employment or training) get on the jobs ladder.

Some people will leave school and struggle to get a job in a skilled area. Apprenticeships offer a second chance — rarely do you get to learn your trade in a job and get paid while doing it.

I hope companies will not exploit the low wages that usually come with apprenticeships but use them to improve London’s workforce and the lives of young Londoners.
D Connor

Turning on the tap: Clare Halse as Peggy Sawyer leads the chorus in one of the musical's many dance numbers

The exuberant 42nd Street shows it still has plenty of legs

The musical 42nd Street has received mixed reviews in its first week. It was given five stars in the Telegraph and The Stage, yet Fiona Mountford gave it only three stars because she felt that despite the tapping her “spirits began to flag” [April 5].

It was also Ms Mountford who got a headache from watching Ragtime as there were too many songs in it. Tap dancing in a musical? Singing in a musical? Whatever next — a rapping Hamilton?

Martin Clark

What would 42nd Street, that gloriously exuberant musical, have been like had it “sketched out details of desperate people struggling in the aftermath of the Great Depression”, as Fiona Mountford suggests it should? The whole purpose of the 1933 film on which it is based was surely to make audiences forget their troubles, not ram them down their throats.

John Julius

Time to celebrate the wonderful NHS

As doctors and medical professionals we know first-hand the vital role the NHS plays for our citizens. That is why today, on World Health Day, we call on the people of the UK to recognise how fortunate we are to have it.

In the world’s poorest regions even basic healthcare is unimaginable. Thankfully, through our foreign aid commitments, the UK can pass on our health expertise to the most vulnerable, helping to save lives and build healthier, stable communities.

Preventing disease and curing illness in poor countries is more than a moral duty. It is in the UK’s own interests because illness does not respect borders or race. When the Ebola outbreak threatened to spark a deadly global pandemic in 2015 UK doctors and nurses put themselves in danger to save lives and help stop the disease in its tracks.

British aid workers are now spearheading the famine relief effort in Africa and we are assisting in the refugee crisis across the Middle East. Amid much instability around the world, now is not the time to turn our backs on those who need us.
Dr Patrick Green, GP in Stoke Newington, and four other UK doctors

Debts are hitting Europe so hard

Those who are critical of Brexit should worry instead about the state of the eurozone.

Public debt ratios in Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Cyprus are already higher than at the height of the debt crisis in 2012. The European Central Bank has started to reduce debt purchases, although last year it bought the whole of Italy’s public debt. Who will buy Italian debt in future?

The eurosceptic political parties are comfortably in the lead in Italy while Marine Le Pen could yet win the presidential election in France. Unemployment in the EU has only recently come down to 9.5 per cent on average and in southern Europe it is much higher. Youth unemployment is 25-40 per cent.

Some of our elite may see Brexiteers as “rats” — but they are rats deserting a sinking ship.
Professor Alan Sked

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