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BMW Group to invest a further £250m in its UK plants

The announcement brings BMW's total investment in its UK production network to £1.75bn since 2000.

The German car maker BMW Group, which invested £500m in the UK in June 2011, has announced a further £250m investment in its manufacturing operations at its facilities in Oxford, Swindon and Hams Hall, near Birmingham, by the end of 2015. As well as supporting the company’s global strategy, this will provide job security for the 5,500 UK associates working in the Mini UK Triangle plants.

BMW said that as the volume and variety of its Mini model line-up grows, there will be additional production requirements for engines and body panels from its specialist UK facilities in Hams Hall and Swindon. Part of the new investment will be allocated to develop specific production facilities to meet these requirements.

Harald Krueger, member of the board of management at BMW Group, said:

A year ago, we announced a further investment of £500m in our UK production network by 2014 and today we are announcing an additional £250m, taking us through to 2015. This brings the total to £1.75bn since 2000.

Over the last 11 years, Mini has been a unique global success and the BMW Group has even greater plans for the future development of the brand. Plant Oxford has played a major role in this with cars being exported to over 100 countries around the world. This additional investment is great news for all our employees in the UK and shows the BMW Group’s commitment to Britain as a vital manufacturing base for us.

The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, said:

BMW’s ambitious plans for Mini will ensure its UK sites at Oxford, Swindon and Hams Hall remain at the centre of Mini production worldwide. The investment of £250m in addition to the £500m last year demonstrates BMW’s commitment to the UK and safeguards jobs for the future.

The Oxford plant has made such an enormous contribution to the ongoing global success of the Mini brand since the BMW Group launched the new Mini in 2001. Just as Bavaria is the centre of the BMW world, so the UK is and indeed will remain the hub and the heart of Mini.

Krueger added:

Our preferred option is to establish a contract manufacturer as a satellite production as close to our UK operations as possible, at the Nedcar plant in the Netherlands, with whom BMW is in discussions. Oxford will provide special Mini production expertise for any new operation, particularly in the areas of dealing with the high complexity and customer individuality which Mini demands and in operating state-of-the-art, multi-model production lines.

BMW operates 26 production and assembly facilities in 14 countries and has a global sales network in more than 140 countries.

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Apprenticeships remain a university alternative in name only for too many young people

New research shows that those who do the best apprenticeships will earn higher salaries than graduates, but government targets undermine the quality of such schemes.

Rare is the week that passes by without George Osborne donning a hi-vis jacket and lauding the worth of apprenticeships. The Conservatives have made creating 3m apprenticeships a governing mission. Labour, both under Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn, are scarcely less enthusiastic about their value.

The best apprenticeships live up to the hype. Those with a level five apprenticeship (there are eight levels) will earn £50,000 more in their lifetime than someone with a degree from a non-Russell Group university, as new research by the Sutton Trust reveals.

But too many apprenticeships are lousy. In 2014/15, just 3 per cent of apprenticeships were level four or above. Over the last two years, there have only been an estimated 30,000 apprenticeships of at least level four standard. So while David Cameron comes up with ever grander targets for the amount of apprenticeships he wants to create, he neglects what really matters: the quality of the apprenticeships. And that's why most people who can are still better off going to university: over a lifetime the average graduate premium is £200,000.

Proudly flaunting lofty targets for apprenticeships might be good politics, but it isn’t good policy. “The growth in apprenticeships has been a numbers game with successive governments, with an emphasis on increasing quantity, not quality,” says Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust.

60 per cent of apprenticeships today are at level two – considered to be no better than GCSE standard. These might help people get a job in the short-term, but it will do nothing to help them progress in the long-term. Too often an apprenticeship is seen as an end in itself, when it should be made easier to progress from lower to higher apprenticeships. The Sutton Trust is right to advocate that every apprentice can progress to an A-Level standard apprenticeship without having to start a new course.

Apprenticeships are trumpeted as an alternative to going to university. Yet the rush to expand apprenticeships has come to resemble the push to send half the population to university, focused more on giving ever-greater numbers a qualification then in ensuring its worth. For too many young people, apprenticeships remain an alternative to university in name only.

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.