Businesses employing young apprentices will have their job tax scrapped, after the chancellor of the exchequer announced more support for “the businesses that create jobs and apprenticeships” during the Autumn Statement today.
From April 2016, employers will not have to pay National Insurance contributions (NICs) for all but the highest earning apprentices aged under 25.
During his speech George Osborne said: “While employment is at a record high, we must never give up on the task of finding work for all young people. So today we move further towards full employment, by supporting the businesses that create jobs and apprenticeships.
“We support people who want to work hard and get on. So today we boost our skills, our exports, our science and our infrastructure.”
Osborne pointed out that, in 2010, the UK was ranked fourteenth in the Global Innovation Index, whereas today it is ranked second: “But we aim to be the best,” he said.
With apprenticeships and training young people on the agenda this year, the Labour Party recently said it would work with schools to improve skills for more girls and boys in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem), after Ed Miliband branded the lack of UK female engineers a “matter of national embarrassment”.
Writing on Facebook, the Labour Party leader said he was in favour of giving employers the chance to be in charge of the funds for training young people, to ensure as many school-leavers go on to high-quality apprenticeships as go to university.
In August 2014 Osborne announced seven new university technical colleges (UTCs) and four new studio schools, backed by employers to equip young people with the skills to secure high-tech jobs in the IT and engineering sectors.
The schools provide 5,000 students aged 14-19 with technical or vocational education with curriculums developed by local businesses and universities. The institutions work with more than 40 employers, including Jaguar Land Rover, Dyson, Hitachi and Kew Botanical Gardens.
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More postgraduate support
During the Autumn Statement, Osborne announced more support for postgraduate students, who will now be able to apply for students loans – borrowing up to £10,000.
“Until now there has been almost no financial support available, and the upfront costs of postgraduate degrees deter bright students from poorer backgrounds,” said Osborne.
“So today, across all disciplines, we will make government-backed student loans of up to £10,000 available, for the first time ever; to all young people undertaking postgraduate masters degrees.”
Addressing the “caricature” that most jobs are being created in London and that they are part time with women losing out, Osborne said: “How many of the jobs being created are full time? 85%. Where are the jobs being created fastest right now? In Scotland and the North.
“And what’s happening to the gender pay gap? It’s just fallen to its lowest level in the entire history of this country. That’s progressive politics in action.”
Investing in northern science
Osborne also made announcements to support more science-based initiatives by taking “steps to back business, support science, and invest in infrastructure”.
He said: “It is a personal priority of mine. Scientific advance is a human endeavour worthy of support in its own right. It is also crucial to our economic future.
“The next step is the allocation of the £6bn on the biggest ever sustained programme of investment in the research facilities of our scientific community.”
Osborne said it is the government’s ambition to build a “northern powerhouse as a complement to the strength of our capital city” touching on the concept of High Speed 3 – a high-speed rail line that will connect the South and the North.
In June 2014 he called for a dialogue on boosting the UK’s regional economy, by constructing Britain’s third high-speed rail line between Manchester and Leeds. This drew a mixed reaction from the technology sector, with many claiming the government would do better to create a shorter-term strategy to address the IT skills shortage.
During his address Osborne said: “A few months ago there were no proposals for major new scientific institutions in the North of England.
“Today we commit to a £250m investment in a new Sir Henry Royce Institute for advanced material science in Manchester, with branches in Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield. And we back the brilliant work on ageing being conducted at Newcastle University and big data computing at Hartree.”
“We’re supporting new academy schools too.”
In closing, Osborne said: “Four and a half years ago our economy was in crisis. People questioned whether Britain could remain among the front rank economic nations of the world. But we set a course to restore stability, get on top of our debts and show Britain was not going to be counted out.
“Through the storm we have stayed the course. Now Britain is on course for surplus. On course for lower taxes. On course for more jobs. On course for higher growth. On course for a truly national recovery. A long term economic plan, on course to prosperity.”