My passion for apprenticeships and skills stems from a simple truth: they represent a huge ladder of opportunity for those seeking work, giving thousands of people the chance to go as far as their talents will take them.
That’s why the apprenticeship levy is so important.
As the apprenticeships and skills minister, I am committed to enabling young people and adults to get the skills they need to succeed in a job, and creating the workforce that businesses need to thrive.
So, as well as meeting our manifesto commitments, we must increase the prestige of apprenticeships and continue to change the culture in our country. We must also make certain that those on low incomes have apprenticeship opportunities.
'I will bang the drum for apprenticeships'
Of course, I will be carrying on the great work that has already been done around apprenticeships. I will be banging the drum and getting the message out there that top apprenticeships are as good as top university degrees – that apprenticeships are more than a credible alternative to "traditional" routes and a real asset to our businesses.
But it is the apprenticeship levy that has the real power as a change-maker.
Some employers have been calling for the levy to be delayed. While I understand the concerns, any postponement to the levy would just delay the opportunity to create more apprenticeships. I don't believe we can postpone opportunities for the next generation. This levy will allow us to double the annual level of spending on apprenticeships between 2010-11 and 2019-20 in cash terms to £2.5 billion.
For employers across the country, the levy will also give them genuine control of the training they buy and make sure businesses have the right people to help them grow and compete on the world stage.
Today I am urging employers to come forward and give their views on our proposals for funding apprenticeships. We will listen to what they have to say and work with them to make this work for everyone.
The apprenticeship levy is a core instrument in providing the tools to train millions of young people, increasing our economic productivity and ensuring opportunities for everyone, not just the privileged few. Let us not miss this opportunity to really transform the skills base of our country.
Robert Halfon is minister for apprenticeships and skills. He tweets at @halfon4harlowMP
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