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Apprentices are the key to our economic future – Clegg

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: June 18, 2013

Rick Stein's Padstow Seafood School trains aspiring chefs on its Professional Cookery Apprenticeship scheme

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Britain is creating jobs. I know it doesn't always feel like it – a lot of families are still feeling the pinch. But since the Liberal Democrats came into government in 2010, we've helped British businesses create more than a million jobs. Now we want to help them create a million more.

Last week, I launched the Liberal Democrats' A Million Jobs for a Stronger Economy campaign.

In coalition, we're already creating jobs in manufacturing by investing billions in science, high-tech manufacturing and renewable energy. We're boosting employment outside of London through a Regional Growth Fund, giving money to organisations around the country – like the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership who are using the money to help SMEs and South Devon College who are investing in the development of a new Energy Centre. Our Green Investment Bank – a world first – will create green jobs in the low carbon industries of the future. And we're creating work by investing billions in roads, railways and homes.

This investment in our infrastructure includes £30m for the dualling of the A30 between Temple and Carblake, a notorious bottleneck. Relieving this pinch point will boost tourism and local businesses as well as making travelling around the area easier for residents. I've been campaigning on this with local Liberal Democrat MP Dan Rogerson since before the general election and we're now able to deliver on this, something I'm very proud of.

But we're determined to do more – starting with giving apprenticeships a major push. More and more young people are learning the skills they need for well-paid careers, not just in a classroom or a lecture theatre, but in the office or on the shop floor – and getting paid for it.

It's an old idea to help build a new economy. And it works for all kinds of careers – from construction to catering; from advanced engineering to accounting. Not only do apprenticeships create new opportunities for young men and women, but companies get the highly skilled staff they need to compete and expand; and communities get a boost to their local economy.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, and I made this a priority when we came into office. The Government is investing record sums in helping firms hire and train people in this way, creating record numbers of apprenticeships. We're also cutting red tape so it's easier for smaller firms to take people on.

In Cornwall and Devon, the number of people starting apprenticeships has gone up by half, bringing the total number of people who have benefited from an apprenticeship since 2010 to more than 30,000. But there are still young people and firms missing out on these opportunities. There are nearly five million businesses in the UK but little over 100,000 currently offer apprenticeships. We want to double that to 200,000. That means twice as many companies like Rick Stein's seafood restaurant, which I visited last year. There at the Padstow Seafood School aspiring chefs are trained including on their Professional Cookery Apprenticeship scheme. Speaking to them, I heard what a difference the training has made to the young people there.

I spoke to apprentices and employers at Truro and Falmouth College, and I heard some great feedback from them. Colleges can offer the training to match an employer's needs and that gives young people the knowledge that their skills will help them a job more easily once they've received their qualifications. They will also be working in real-life businesses as part of their apprenticeships, giving them useful experience and allowing their employers to benefit from their ideas and passion. So if you are a young person considering what path to take when you leave school, or you're uncertain about your future, an apprenticeship can be the first step to a well-paid and rewarding career. If you're employer, take up the help that's available: these young men and women will create the committed, enthusiastic and skilled workforce your company needs.

Together, we can lead an apprenticeships drive, helping build a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

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