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Public sector will have to deliver on apprenticeships, prime minister says

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The government plans to introduce an apprenticeship target for large public bodies, it has been announced.

Prime minister David Cameron said: "We will make every part of the public sector – from Whitehall to local government, the NHS to the police – ensure that apprentices form at least 2.3 per cent of their staff, helping us to deliver the skills young people need, and the workforce of the future.”

In the government’s document English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 Vision, published today, it says it will publish later this month a consultation document, outlining the rationale behind the target, which will apply to English public bodies with at least 250 employees.

Following the consultation, and subject to parliamentary approval, the target would then come into force in spring or summer 2016. “The public sector must lead the way in offering apprenticeships,” the document says.

Large public procurement contracts will in future also require successful bidders to contribute to the government’s 3 million apprenticeship target, the government says: “We have changed the rules for public procurement so that, for all relevant government contracts that are over £10m and more than 12 months in duration, bidders will also need to compete on the basis of their contribution to apprenticeships and skills.”

An estimated three-quarters of apprentices currently work in private sector organisations, compared with 16 per cent in the public sector.

The government document also outlines plans for improved online tools for the recruitment of apprentices, as well as support for smaller employers starting apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships will be available across all sectors of the economy and at all levels, including degree level, the government said.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said “To deliver 3 million high-quality apprenticeships requires a plan that provides a sense of direction, allows for coordinated effort and enables a range of partners to make an informed contribution. We are very pleased that government has now published that plan.”

He added colleges were committed to doing their utmost to contribute to the shared goal in the plan. 

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