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Firms sign up to apprentice schemes
More than 60 companies, including BMW, have signed up to the Government's new style of apprentice schemes
David Cameron unveiled a new generation of apprenticeships designed to drive down youth unemployment and make vocational training an attractive choice for thousands of young people.
More than 60 of the UK's leading businesses have signed up to deliver the new-style schemes, developed in response to last November's report by entrepreneur Doug Richard, which called for higher quality training and more educational rigour to give apprenticeships "serious kudos" with both employers and employees.
Visiting the Mini factory in Oxford to meet motor industry apprentices, Mr Cameron was also due to announce 100,000 vocational training schemes for young people over the next two years, modelled on successful programmes run by the Prince's Trust.
The PM will frame the "new era of apprentices" as part of the Government's efforts to consolidate the growth now returning to the UK economy.
"We know that the economy is turning a corner; GDP figures last week showed the third consecutive quarter of growth and we know we have record levels of employment," he is expected to say. "But we cannot for one moment be complacent. I'm determined we finish the job we started."
Mr Cameron will tell trainees at the Mini plant that the reforms will make a "massive difference" to the lives of thousands of young people by ensuring UK companies provide "the best apprenticeships in the world".
"The reforms we're announcing today will put employers in the driving seat and ensure that we deliver high-quality training that supports you and our economy for years to come," he is expected to say. "And as the range of companies signed up today shows, these are apprenticeships in different industries and sectors meaning people have a real choice about the career they want and our economy is balanced."
More than 60 companies - including Mini owners BMW, BAE Systems, Microsoft and Barclays Bank - have signed up to be "trailblazers" for the new-style apprenticeships.
In future, apprenticeships will last at least a year and will be based on standards designed by employers, to meet the specific needs of their industry and deliver the skills and knowledge an individual needs to be fully competent in an occupation, Mr Cameron will say.
Apprentices will be subjected to more thorough academic assessment - including maths and English tests - and will be graded at pass, merit or distinction level in a similar way to their contemporaries in full-time education. At least 20% of their training will take place away from their work stations. Downing Street said it was intended that all new apprenticeships will meet the new standards by 2017/18.
Meanwhile, vocational training schemes will be offered to young people for whom apprenticeships are not the right option.
"We're saying if you need help preparing for an apprenticeship or want to get straight into the world of work, we'll help you too," Mr Cameron will say. "We've been talking to some of the biggest companies in Britain, massive global brands where young people have a real opportunity to progress up the ladder, and they have said they want to offer 100,000 vocational training schemes for young people."
New vocational training schemes are being pledged by Accenture, BAE Systems, Barclays, BT, Centrica, Diageo, GSK, HSBC, Kingfisher, M&S, National Grid, Tesco, Unilever, and WPP, and will include intensive vocational training, mentoring and on-the-job experience.
A spokesperson from The Prince's Trust said: " Too many young people are facing long-term unemployment, believing their destiny lies in the dole queue. Prince's Trust programmes are proven to help unemployed young people into jobs. Now, this backing from some of Britain's biggest businesses will support thousands more disadvantaged young people into work."
Mr Cameron will say: "Taken together, these two things aren't a cure-all. They're not going to abolish youth unemployment overnight. And there's still much more we need to do - and believe me, this Government will do it.
"But this is a massive step forward for young people and for our country."
The national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, John Allan, said: "Apprenticeships can transform a young person's life, providing access to bespoke training and often a highly skilled job which they may only have dreamt about. Today's announcement by the Prime Minister throws the spotlight on apprentice schemes and we welcome the Government's emphasis on developing a quality, focused and employer-driven system.
"These schemes should be recognised as vital introductions to careers that can take an individual all the way to the top in the business. We hope the reforms announced today will strengthen and protect the image of apprenticeships which, over the years, has been damaged by constant change. "
Ashok Vaswani, chief executive of Barclays Retail and Business Banking, said: "We believe this is a significant step forward in helping young people into work, particularly those who are over 18 but not in education, training or employment. By joining with the Government and other leading employers we will expand upon our successful programmes which are providing quality work experience, traineeships and apprenticeships. Over a quarter of a million young people have already signed up to our LifeSkills programme, and hundreds of young people have come off benefits as a result of our apprenticeships."