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Minister Halfon and Antony Jenkins on apprenticeships

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Writing in the Times Red Box today to coincide with the launch of the Institute for Apprenticeships,  Minister Robert Halfon and Institute Chair Antony Jenkins explore the importance of a strong technical education system.

Our plan for Britain is about getting a better deal for ordinary working people, and part of that is making sure everyone has the skills they need to land the job they want.

So I am pleased we are able to launch of the Institute for Apprenticeships today. It marks an important milestone in the Government’s ambitious plan to work with business to invest in the home grown-skills our country needs.

A big part of this is ensuring technical education as a real alternative to traditional academic routes. As the Education Secretary has described, there must be 'parity of esteem' between technical and academic education.

We can build an Apprenticeship and Skills Nation if parents and young people consider technical education and apprenticeships when they are deciding what route to take after leaving school and planning for their futures. And we want older people to be able to secure these vital skills by doing a quality apprenticeship.

Latest figures show that we have the highest numbers of apprenticeships on record with 900,000 apprentices last year alone. Ninety percent of apprentices get employment or progress to additional education.

That is really something to shout about and makes the Institute’s work even more important.

Apprenticeships are something we are both committed to and care passionately about. They create a ladder of opportunity for people of all ages.  They provide a route for social mobility, ensuring that millions of young people can get the jobs, security and prosperity they need‎.

Our apprentices will also play a massive part in ensuring we have the home-grown workforce we need in post-Brexit Britain, addressing the skills shortages facing industry.

We are full steam ahead and working hard to ensure apprenticeships are the highest quality they can be. From today, the Institute will be up and running. With a strong employer voice at the heart, the Institute will play a crucial role in raising the prestige of apprenticeships and ensuring employers can get the skilled workforce they desperately need.‎

This is just one piece of the jigsaw. The apprenticeship levy coming into force on Thursday will mean that we double the annual investment in apprenticeships to £2.5 billion by 2019-20. With more money than ever before, this will ensure that everyone gets the chance to fulfill their true potential through a quality apprenticeship. Whether it is a levy-payer or a small business, apprenticeships will be available for those who want to take a step up that ladder.

One of the Institute's main jobs is to support the Government’s drive to deliver three million quality apprenticeships by 2020. This is a huge responsibility and an exciting chance to revolutionise the apprenticeship landscape – creating the all-important Apprenticeships and Skills Nation. It has taken a lot of work to get us where we are, but the Institute is ready to start delivering for apprenticeships and, from 2018, technical education as well.

We have made sure that, throughout the whole process, we have listened closely to employers and experts in further education and the feedback was clear – quality, quality, quality. That is why the Institute has put employers in the driving seat. No one knows the skills employers need better than employers themselves.

The quality provided by the Institute is buttressed by the requirement that apprenticeships must now last a minimum of a year with 20 per cent off the job training. Our new degree apprenticeships add to that quality and help build the prestige of our skills offering.

The Institute will run panels that will be made up of employers, and chaired by employers, to review and challenge apprenticeship standards and how the apprenticeships are assessed. A Panel of Apprentices will advise the Institute to ensure that the needs of apprentices are truly reflected in the development of the new standards

Through the Institute’s work, with the new apprenticeship levy coming in, and the £500 extra million announced in the Budget for Skills to support the new Technical Levels, we are truly working towards creating an Apprenticeships and Skills Nation – making sure people of all ages and all backgrounds can get their foot on the ladder of opportunity.

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