NATIONAL Apprenticeship Week takes place from 6-10 February and I am delighted to be able to highlight some of the achievements and opportunities both nationally and locally.
Apprenticeships are now being offered in more than 200 different areas and provide young people with a great way of building their skills and experience while they work.
We have a record number of apprenticeships across the country. Last year more than 450,000 people started an apprenticeship. In my constituency the number of apprenticeship starts has doubled in the last year from 270 to 540 (across Hounslow as a whole, the figures have increased from 720 to 1,300). The feedback from businesses with apprentices is also overwhelmingly positive with 88% believing they lead to a more motivated workforce.
Last week I held a meeting, kindly hosted by Enjoy Work based at Chiswick Business Park, which was attended by over 50 local businesses all keen to hear more about apprenticeships. We had the National Apprenticeship Service on hand to answer any questions from the businesses present as well as representatives from JobCentrePlus, Connexions and many of the local apprenticeship training providers.
I was particularly inspired to hear about the experiences of three young apprentices at the meeting -Shaun Heaney from BAA, Jake Williams from Enjoy Work and Cassie Burton from Ixion. These young people told us why they had decided to follow the route of doing an apprenticeship and how it had benefited them so far. Local employers who have taken on apprentices spoke up too about the value that apprentices have brought to their businesses.
Local apprenticeship training provider, West Thames College, also told the businesses present about the free service they provide to match the right apprentices to their business as well as the flexibility they can add to apprenticeship training programmes to make sure they fit the needs of each individual business.
One of our local major employers, Starbucks, which is based in Chiswick chose this week to announce their apprenticeship scheme. Starbucks will be taking on up to 405 apprenticeships this year in barista skills and customer service, increasing to 65 per month from next year.
Despite all this very positive news about apprenticeships, I am convinced there is much more we can do, both in terms of ensuring the consistent quality of apprenticeships provided and in opening up the idea of apprenticeships to smaller companies.
The Government has already announced it is focusing on removing the red tape and bureaucracy that might stop smaller companies from taking on apprentices and also committing funding to provide incentives for smaller businesses considering this option.
I look forward to working with companies of all sizes across the constituency to encourage an even greater take-up of apprenticeships over the coming year.