Following former prime minister Tony Blair’s ideal that half of young people should go to university, Jake Berry has said that he would like to see half of all new apprenticeships beginning in the north of England.
It is true that Blair’s ambition to make university an opportunity for everyone has been moderately successful. With grants, scholarships and bursaries available, university is no longer an option aimed only at the elite and richest in society. Berry says that 35 per cent of all new apprenticeships currently start in the north and that he would like to build on this figure in the coming years to see it increase to 50 per cent.
Given the economy of the Northern Powerhouse, it is no surprise that the skills of young, fresh workers are greatly sought after. An apprenticeship has long been recognised as a great way to educate up-and-coming workers in a particular field while they work. In this way, it has the dual benefits of developing hands-on training while learning and – of course – being paid for the privilege, which is an appealing prospect for many young apprentices.
Berry also went on to talk about some of the developing ideas currently taking place in the north. One of these is a UCAS-style system for vocational positions and apprenticeships put in place by Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham; meanwhile, the mayor of the Liverpool City region, Steve Rotheram, has introduced a travel discount scheme for young apprentices.
Although funding will need to be sourced for this to be pledged on a national level, it is a clear sign that some mayors are prioritising the need for apprentices and trying to make their lives easier. With apprenticeship wages typically being low, a discount on travel would be a huge help to many young people going down this route and make the apprenticeship option more appealing.
Going forward, Berry would like to see more schemes such as this put in place on a pan-northern basis to achieve his ambition of 50 per cent of new apprenticeships originating in the north. The industrial powerhouse needs these skills and it would certainly benefit the area to offer more programmes.