The Conservative MPs for Milton Keynes cannot put a positive spin on the decline of apprenticeship starts from 2,320 in 2012/13 to 1,790 in 2013/14 (from the ONS). The SEMPLEP (South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership) conducted a short on-line survey at the end of 2013 amongst employers in the Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire area regarding apprenticeships. 136 responses were received and although some of these were from Hertfordshire,  nevertheless SEMLEP felt the responses still represented the views of SMEs across the SEMLEP area. 

The majority of respondents employ between 1 – 49 employees (90%) and just over half of those businesses currently employ a young person aged 16-24. When asked about issues affecting 16-24 yr olds, the top 3 areas that employers said they wanted to be kept informed about were: 

1. Wage incentives / Government grants (75.7%)
2. Courses / training available for existing staff (47.1%) 
3. Opportunities for businesses to help local 16-24 year old job-seekers (44.1%)

Furthermore, corroborating this, back in March 2014 it was acknowledged and highlighted in the MK “Economic Development Performance Report”, that Government reforms for apprenticeship funding was causing some concern amongst SMEs and this fear of decline has now been realised in the figures released.  But we should also remember that, when Labour were in power, MK never achieved greater than 1,110 start-ups (2009/10) during their time with a local Labour MP in MK South.  Milton Keynes needs harder lobbying of the government to improve the funding and motivation of businesses to take on apprentices. The quality of apprenticeships needs to be raised in order to ensure the correct skills for the individual and the needs of businesses coming to Milton Keynes are met. The need for action and a strong lobby to the government cannot be more explicit. This hasn’t been achieved: MPs are set on applying their energies to defending their party instead of their constituency needs.  I had the privilege of an apprenticeship start in engineering in 1978.  The skills, experience and education were invaluable to me offering a path of improvement and continuation to high levels. All of our young people deserve this.   Our UK, MK-based businesses need this to ensure a UK-grown, trained workforce.  If the skills are not available from our UK workforce, businesses will bring in migrants. One of the reasons I decided to run as an Independent MP for Milton Keynes was to bring the fight to Westminster.