In a lively session of PMQs this Wednesday local MP Robin Walker spoke up for his plan to make sure Worcestershire plays a full part in the goal of increasing apprenticeships whilst welcoming the big fall in youth unemployment that the area has already seen. Figures published yesterday showed that in Worcester youth unemployment is down by two thirds from its peak but also that across the County it has fallen below 1,000 for the first time since records began.

He pointed out Worcester’s strong performance to the Prime Minister and asked for his backing for the plan that Robin launched ahead of the 2015 election for the County to raise its apprenticeship participation numbers from the 10,000 achieved in 2014 to 15,000 by 2020, saying:

“Youth unemployment in Worcester has halved over the past two years. As of today’s figures, it is down two thirds from its peak under Labour. With this one nation Government investing in increasing the number of apprenticeships by half, will the Prime Minister back my long-term plan to have 15,000 apprenticeships a year in Worcestershire by 2020

The Prime Minister replied:

“I thank my hon. Friend for all that he does to support apprenticeships in his constituency. Some 4,490 have been created since 2010. He is right that the challenge for the future is to have the right number of apprentices and quality of apprenticeships. That is why it is right to introduce a levy on larger firms, whereby they get the money back if they invest in apprenticeships, but have to pay if they do not. That will be one of the key ways in which we achieve our goal of 3 million apprentices in this Parliament.”

Commenting on the exchange, Robin, a former member of the BIS Select Committee and now PPS to the Education Secretary said:

“Apprenticeships are a vital part of our long term plan to fix the British economy, to increase skill levels and productivity and most important of all, to provide opportunities for young people. It was a tragedy that under Labour there were more than 700 young people out of work before the election in 2010 and over 800 at the peak in Worcester alone. I am glad that this month’s figure is the lowest on record at 265 but I want to see it taken down further. I share the Prime Minister’s aspiration that we should abolish youth unemployment.”

“Achieving more apprenticeships will be a challenge as most of the big employers who can take them on already do, but we need to work hard to persuade smaller businesses to work together in supporting them, to win over parents and students to the benefits they can provide and to make sure the wonderful growth in quality and quantity we have seen over the last few years continues. I think having made the milestone of 10,000 apprenticeships in a single year last year, the Chamber, the Worcestershire LEP, and the County Council should all now commit to reaching 15,000.”

Notes to Editors:

For the full exchange at Prime Minister’s Questions see:

For more information on the unemployment figures including youth unemployment see:

For the full detail of Worcestershire’s falling youth claimant count see: