The following appeared in my column for the Barnsley Chronicle on November 24th.
After chatting to young people and students around our community, it’s clear far too many of them have concerns about their futures.
Whether it’s getting a secure and well-paying job, achieving vital qualifications, being able to get on the housing ladder, or affording further and higher education, time and time again I’m reminded of the obstacles they face.
That’s why it’s so important to ensure young people in Barnsley have the skills and qualifications they desperately need to help them get on in life.
It’s a topic that we’ve spoken about a lot recently, but often the discussion is dominated by higher education.
There’s no doubt that university is the right move for many young people, but it’s not for everyone.
In a changing and innovating economy, employer-led training can often provide the best route for a young person.
Apprenticeships can provide valuable on-the-job learning, vital qualifications, and frequently provide the first step into permanent employment.
It’s a route so many across the country have taken, with over 500,000 people beginning an apprenticeship in the last year alone.
But it’s still not enough, and apprenticeships should also be about quality, not just quantity.
In fact, only 1 in 10 employers across the country provides apprenticeships, and the majority of these are taken by older people, rather than used to provide school leavers and young people with a start.
And of the apprenticeships taken up by young people, only a quarter them receive formal training.
Simply put, we need higher quality apprenticeships that provide better experiences and qualifications, given to young people to get the best start in life, regardless of their background.
As politicians, we’re often accused of just talking the talk.
But I’ll be providing an apprenticeship for one local young person, giving them the chance to join me in my busy office, earning the living wage and getting crucial employment experience.
For more information, you can contact my constituency office.
It’s important to ensure that as much as possible is done to help our young people in Barnsley get a good start and the chance to really get on in life.