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Compulsory apprentices for companies under Labour?

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Companies that bid for government contracts would be obliged to hire young people as apprentices under a future Labour government.  

That was the commitment from Labour leader Ed Milliband in his keynote address to the party’s conference in Liverpool this week during which he pledged to take  “action to put our young people back to work”.
 
Millaband said: “”All major government contracts will go to firms who commit to training the next generation with decent apprenticeships,” he commented. “And none will go to those who don’t…The new bargain in our economy must be built on co-operation not conflict in the workplace. Raising productivity, working together, helping firms to compete.”
 
George Guy, acting general secretary of construction union Ucatt, said: “Mr Miliband’s total commitment to creating decent apprenticeships is particularly welcome in the construction industry, where short term thinking is creating a growing skills crisis.”
 
But Milliband’s proposals were met with rejection by John Walker, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses who said: “We are disappointed that the Labour leader does not understand how jobs and apprenticeships are created in the real world. Small businesses already struggle to win public sector contracts and insisting that they must offer an apprenticeship will mean that they miss out on more. While more than 60% of apprenticeships take place in small businesses, until firms win more business they will not have the confidence to take on additional staff. Policies such as this will only make the problem worse.”
 
Meanwhile John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said: ‘Businesses must be responsible. The companies I meet are working tirelessly to create wealth and jobs in extremely tough times. Ed Miliband is right to encourage long-termism in business. Responsible businesses are those committed to investing in their workforce and innovative products and services.”
 
The apprenticeship theme was picked up by shadow education secretary Andy Burnham who announced proposals for a new apprenticeships system to help school leavers straight into work.
 
It would work in the same way as the UCAS university admissions programme, allowing employers to display apprenticeships and the grades required and invite teenagers to apply.
 
Burnham said his proposal “raises the profile, because people would be able to see what’s available and what the entry requirements are for those courses; they could find out beyond their own locality what’s available.
 
“We’ve got to encourage young people to apply in the same way as we do for university. It gives them a goal in life, something to work for as they are going through school, and that is sorely lacking at the moment.”
 
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