New research: Last week we published our report Course Correction, that shows how a shortage of apprenticeships for young, working class people is undermining the levelling up agenda.

Elsewhere in the media:

Head of Energy and Climate Ed Birkett responded to the Government’s announcement of the Energy Security Strategy on Times Red Box

Director Will Tanner was quoted in The Municipal Journal in an article on the future of politics and the importance of devolution, and in an article in The Telegraph on changes to the Whitehall civil service headcount

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Upcoming event

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On the 25th of April, we will be hosting the event ‘Behaviour change and the transition to net zero,’ to discuss the wholesale behavioural change by individuals and communities needed to support the transition to net zero. We will be joined by the Chair of the Environmental Audit Select Committee, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, the Chair of Community Health and Policy at Imperial College London, Professor Frank Kelly, and Chief Executive at the Plant-Based Food Alliance UK, Councillor Marisa Heath.

You can sign up for the event here.

Onward Note

The clock is ticking down to when the Prime Minister must explain to voters how he is levelling up the country.

Yet on one vital measure – apprenticeships – the Government is going backwards. Apprenticeships should be central to levelling up. But instead the number of apprenticeship starts fell by a quarter between 2011 and 2019. Our new research, Course Correction, found this fall was sharpest among working class school leavers

Francesca-Fraser-Onward

The ‘Red Wall’ has lost a third of the apprenticeship starts it had in 2011 – double London’s decline. And the constituencies that have seen the greatest increase in apprenticeships include some of London’s most affluent areas like Wimbledon, Richmond Park and Chelsea and Fulham.

Instead of spending the money on school leavers seeking a university alternative, too many large firms are incentivised to top up middle managers’ qualifications with apprenticeships intended for non-graduates. 

At the same time the number of SMEs offering apprenticeships has plummeted. This is a blow for social mobility as SMEs have historically hired more disadvantaged school leavers than large businesses. 

These trends are a direct result of the reforms made to the apprenticeship system. The reforms were supposed to increase the quality of training to put apprentices in better stead for employment. But those who could benefit most from these improvements are no longer being granted the opportunity to do so.

If ministers want to improve skills and employment opportunities across the North and the Midlands, they need to address the problems within the apprenticeship system.  

The Government should fully fund every 16 to 18 year old apprentice in the same way it funds A-Level students. Doing this would disproportionately direct funding outside the Greater South East where there are more young apprentices.

It must also recognise that quality controls make it harder for small employers to hire apprentices. It is possible to maintain high standards without dissuading time-poor employers. This could be done by giving mayors the powers to connect employers to training providers and holding them responsible for increasing numbers.

Lastly, ministers must ramp up efforts to achieve parity of esteem between higher and further education. To demonstrate the long-term value of an apprenticeship, they should publish earnings data, as is done for higher education. The numbers speak for themselves.

These measures should form part of a wider rethink of apprenticeships to ensure that those who could benefit most from becoming an apprentice are given that chance to do so. The Government has its eyes on the next election. Going into it without addressing the shortfalls of the apprenticeship system would be both morally and politically unwise.

A version of this article appeared in The Telegraph on April 6th, 2022

Francesca Fraser, Senior Researcher, Levelling Up research programme

Policy Bites

Last week the Government published its Energy Security Strategy, announcing its plans to provide the UK with clean, long-term, affordable and secure energy. Headline announcements included a new nuclear body called ‘Great British Nuclear,’ updates on renewable energy sources like solar, offshore wind, and hydrogen, and reforms to the electricity market. Link

The Department for Transport has announced a £30 million package in round 2 of the Live Labs funding competition, aimed to decarbonise British highway infrastructure. Round 1 of funding supported projects like plant walls to reduce roadside emissions and innovative pothole detection techniques. Link

Nearly half a million businesses, of which 94% are small and micro-businesses, are set to benefit from a £1000 tax cut, first announced in the Spring Statement, to reduce employment costs and help businesses flourish and contribute to national economic recovery. Link

Quick Links

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Britain’s sclerotic state | The Spectator
Wealth breeds complacency. The UK economy is being hampered at every turn.
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Britain’s sclerotic state | The Spectator
Wealth breeds complacency. The UK economy is being hampered at every turn.
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A gulf divides the Tory leadership from the country | Financial Times
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A gulf divides the Tory leadership from the country | Financial Times
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