Labour will "guarantee" apprenticeships for every school leaver with required grades

Ed Miliband announces an "apprenticeship guarantee" for school leavers by 2020.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Ed Miliband has announced that he would guarantee an apprenticeship for every school leaver who "gets the grades" by 2020.

The pledge will apply to school leavers in England, and require every company with a major government contract to offer apprenticeships. Every firm recruiting from outside the EU will be required to do the same.

In a speech unveiling Labour's economic plan, Miliband said:

At the moment just one in 10 employers in England offers an apprenticeship. There are six times fewer high quality apprenticeships than in Germany. There has been lots of debate about tax avoidance in the last few weeks.

Nothing more symbolises the current government’s failing plan than seeing the tax gap - between what should be paid and the revenue received – widening, while the number of apprenticeships available for young people is falling. We can do better. And with our plan we will.

The public sector playing its part with thousands of apprenticeships. Every firm that wins a major government contract required to deliver apprenticeships. Every firm recruiting from outside the EU required to do the same.

With businesses having more control over the funding. Rights and responsibilities throughout our society. It is time to match the aspirations of our young people with the high quality apprenticeships they deserve.

So today I can announce: under the next Labour government, if you get the grades at 18 you will be guaranteed an apprenticeship. That is what I mean by a better plan for young people. A better plan for working people. A better plan for Britain.

The BBC reports that this "guarantee" would only apply to 18-year-olds with Level 3 qualifications, which is the equivalent to two A Levels, but the actual grades required have not been outlined.

I heard from a shadow cabinet minister that the Labour leadership has been struggling for a while with making apprenticeships seem as appealing as academic courses for young people. Their idea for doing this – linking apprenticeships to degrees ("earn and learn") in order for the traditional "qualification" incentive to remain – hadn't so far helped the party pledge the volume of apprenticeships it would have liked. So Miliband's latest announcement shows a commitment to bringing apprenticeships closer to the prevalence of academic degrees by the end of the next parliament.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.