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Letter to Derby Telegraph - Derby apprentice example must be copied across UK

October 6, 2013 11:39 AM
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Lucy CareDear Sirs,

It's important to remember that the good news about apprenticeships that you reported in your September 25th Business Weekly hasn't happened by chance. Historically, Derby has had a great respect for the importance of practical skills - I like to think of it was working with your hands and head together - but even in Derby the numbers of apprenticeships had fallen too low - often below the level needed to replace those retiring.

Labour's arbitary "half of school leavers should go to university" target had devalued other routes from school into training and careers, disadvantaging many young people and businesses in the process. And it meant that some young people went to university although the course they chose didn't provide entry into the job they had wanted, devaluing university too.

However, local engineering companies, like Rolls-Royce, Bombardier, Toyota and JCB, were beginning to react to the growing skills shortage. They were ready for the encouragement that the Coalition Government, and particularly Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable, have given to more practical skills training since 2010. New developments like the JCB Academy (the first 'university technical college') and the Rolls-Royce Apprentice School, both encouraged by the government, mean that the Derby area is again leading the way.

Derby is an engineering city. Having companies like Hydra-Valve relocating here (report 21 Sept) for those skills is a great endorsement of our city's continuing leadership in manufacturing and wealth creation. But we can't rest on our laurels. We need more good technical staff, not just moving the same ones around - and the government's £1500 incentive for smaller businesses to take on apprentices mean that many smaller companies can also get involved.

For a fair society that values all types of skills and learning, and for a successful UK economy, Derby's example needs to be copied across the country.

With Lib Dem business leadership in government, I feel that for the first time in many years my profession - engineering - is being recognised as part of the solution. Engineering - practical, innovative and wealth-creating - and its key sector - manufacturing - can together help solve the economic, environmental and social challenges that lie ahead.

Yours sincerely,

Lucy Care

Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Derby North