Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has pledged for more “high-quality” UK apprenticeships – instead of using large volumes of overseas workers – and the creation of a further one million hi-tech jobs.
As part of his six-point plan for the UK, Miliband told the Labour Party conference: “You can’t have what is happening in IT, where you have more and more people coming in and the number of apprenticeships falling.”
Miliband told the Manchester conference companies could allow European IT workers in – but stressed: “You must provide apprenticeships for the next generation.”
“Government is very good at preaching to business about what it should be doing. But let me just tell you - government is absolutely useless when it comes to apprenticeships.”
Labour pledged recently that, if it wins the next election, offshore IT services firms will be forced to create an apprenticeship in the UK for every worker hired, to increase job opportunities for young people.
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Migrant workers from IT companies enter the UK on intra-company transfer (ICT) visas, meaning staff from overseas companies with UK operations can enter the UK.
Blogging on the Huffington Post recently, shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant said the government will force businesses to create an apprenticeship for every migrant worker they employ, saying: “The rules will require every firm hiring a migrant worker from outside the EU to offer an apprenticeship in return. We will use procurement rules to ensure that large firms given government contracts offer apprenticeships. This will apply to what's called 'Tier 2' workers, and we will consult on whether it should also apply to some intra-company transfers.”
Between 1997 and 2008, 300,000 ICTs came to the UK – and half were IT workers. More than 166,000 ICTs in the UK during this period were from India, almost all IT workers.
During Miliband’s speech he said he would ensure as many school-leavers go on to apprenticeships as go to university.
“There are not enough advanced, high-quality apprenticeships available for school leavers, with four times as many going to university instead. This is leaving both young people and businesses without the skills they need to succeed for the future,” said Miliband.
He said of current apprentices: "There aren't enough of them and they aren't high quality enough.” However he said overcome this issue would require a “massive national effort to achieve".
"It's going to require schools to lead a dramatic change in education, with new gold standard technical qualifications," he said.
“And it is going to need business and government to lead a revolution in apprenticeships.”
Last year, IT companies led the way in signing up to a government scheme to ensure the availability of high-level apprenticeships throughout England, with the aim of providing the best apprenticeships in the world with tougher schemes.
The move was made after the Richard Review in 2012 revealed apprenticeships needed to be made clearer for employers and those applying.
As a result, the digital industries apprentice standards were launched in August 2014, which means those who now take an apprenticeship will be graded as a pass, merit or distinction, to provide a clearer measure of their level of achievement.
The standards include software developer, network engineer, software tester, digital marketer, cyber intrusion analyst and digital media technology practitioner. Other sectors include engineering, hospitality and the legal profession. They were unveiled alongside the government campaign Get In, Go Far.