Speaking at Labour Party Conference the Bristol South MP outlined the challenges facing her constituency if forthcoming opportunities are to be maximised by young people living across the area. She highlighted
two key elements of work that is needed in Bristol South: the role of small and medium sized enterprises – and the role of parents & carers.
A transcript of a speech made by the MP to the Dods Apprenticeships Forum Reception is included below.
“I come from a Parliamentary constituency, Bristol South, that sends fewer young people to university than any other in the UK. So apprenticeships are particularly valuable for young people in Bristol South as they offer a chance of decent work and a better share in our city’s prosperity.
But on apprenticeships too we face a number of challenges locally – for example that 80 per cent of apprentices in south Bristol are in retail, health & social care, and business administration – which lead to lower wages than other types.
I want to focus on two elements of the work that I believe is needed in Bristol South to improve things and maximise apprenticeship opportunities: the role of small and medium sized enterprises – and the role of parents & carers. Future apprenticeships policy will only be successful in Bristol South if these groups are better engaged and involved at an early stage.
Bristol South has hardly any large employers. 99.6% of business in Bristol South employ fewer than 250 people, 88% employ fewer than eight. So it’s clear that SMEs in my constituency are pivotal to the success of future apprenticeships – both in helping young people find out about apprenticeships, and in supporting them through their programme.
The funding system for apprenticeships for SMEs is complex and though they are willing (and many do) it is difficult for busy people running SMEs to keep up with national system changes that are introduced.
When I speak with young people on apprenticeships they are hugely positive about the experience but the route is usually through a small local business known to family members or by them just accessing websites and navigating things for themselves. I’m not going to knock those routes, but we are letting down thousands of youngsters who could benefit from greater support, as well as losing key skills our economy needs.
Careers advice in Bristol South is patchy at best. Schools want to keep hold of post-16 students and are rarely resourced to support other options than A levels.
With a plethora of options at 16 and a changing workplace as well the unknown looming impact of Brexit, parents worry about and want to support our youngsters but are rarely equipped or informed about those options. I believe we need much better communications and support to parents and will be looking to develop this locally in the next year. I’ll be interested to hear colleagues’ thoughts this evening, and as we move forward.
And I want to hear the views of young people, parents and carers living in south Bristol: those who’ve been through the system, those currently going through it, and those with youngsters who’ll soon be making decisions about their future options.
So… we are all in agreement that apprenticeships are vital…. But we need to make it easy for the youngsters to find a way into the system. Nationally lots of work has been done to help young people and parents navigate the university entry system. We need the same for apprenticeships.
As a member of the Public Accounts Committee during the last Parliament, I suggested the idea of a UCAS type system for apprenticeships. This is something the government is considering and Labour needs to keep pushing this.
We have a skills gap, and full employment in Bristol. There are major building programmes afoot in our city and just beyond – just down the M5 we have Hinckley C about to be built, for example.
Our young people need to be able to take advantage of the opportunities these and other major projects bring. I spoke earlier about wage differentials, and the differentials for construction trades are good. So I am supporting the need to bring a Construction Training Centre to Bristol South, at the site of the City of Bristol College’s South Bristol Skills Academy.
This will help train local young people in construction and engineering to enable them to take advantage of the best quality opportunities, and I look forward to helping bring this to reality in the months ahead.