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From Keighley News, February 14th 2023
Written by Alistair Shand

APPRENTICESHIPS in Keighley have fallen by a quarter in the past decade, latest figures show.

Data reveals that the number of apprentices across the parliamentary constituency has dropped from 880 in 2011-12 to 660 in 2021-22.

Former Keighley MP John Grogan, who is standing again for Labour in the constituency at the next general election, spoke on the issue at a conference held during National Apprenticeship Week.

The week sees employers and organisations showcase their apprenticeship opportunities.

"Keighley is a proud manufacturing town with many medium-sized and small employers still very much the backbone of the local economy," said Mr Grogan.

"The apprenticeship levy taxes employers nationwide 0.5 per cent of their payroll each month if they have an annual wage bill of over £3 million.

"Businesses paying into the pot can use this money to fund apprenticeship training schemes. But the system is restrictive as businesses cannot use the money to fund courses shorter than a year in duration, and £3.5 billion is being wasted nationally as a result.

"Employers in Keighley tell me that a lack of skilled labour is one of the main constraints on growth in the district. It is really disappointing therefore that the number of apprenticeships has fallen so significantly in the last decade."

The main speaker at the event – the Labour Party Northern Skills Conference, in Heckmondwike ­– was Lord David Blunkett.

He has completed a review of skills and training policy for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Lord Blunkett suggested that a broader 'skills and growth levy' would allow businesses to fund courses that are shorter and more tailored, as well as traditional apprenticeships.

He also recommended that more power and resources over skills and training should be devolved to the mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, instead of decisions being made in Whitehall.

Mr Grogan added: "The conference also heard that the Government is phasing in new vocational qualifications called T levels, which are designed to be the equivalent of A levels.

"Whilst T levels are a good idea, the problem is that from next year the Government is proposing to stop funding many BTEC diplomas and Level 3 qualifications in further education colleges like Keighley. These are very valuable courses which provide a leg up into education for many people, and I spoke to Lord Blunkett about his efforts to get the Government to think again on this point."