View from Westminster - doing more to encourage apprenticeships

Last month saw the first regular 'View from Westminster' column in the Plymouth Herald. Featuring an editorial from each of the Plymouth MPs, it provides an oppotunity for us to share some of the work we are doing to benefit the people of Plymouth and the surrounding areas. Here is my February column.

 As an MP, I am often used as a channel for sharing information. Strictly speaking, this is for my own constituents benefit. In reality, the service is provided to whoever is listening, which can only be a good thing.

This week, I was able to share the good news that Network Rail have apprenticeship vacancies at Tavistock Junction in Plympton. This came about via an email and a tweet from Network Rail letting me know and providing me with ideas on how to share the news through Twitter and the like. All very useful and I was glad to be able to share it. Should you know anyone in the Plymouth area who is interested in a local apprenticeship in a national company, they should visit this website

News of the apprenticeship vacancies got me thinking. I recently received the latest numbers of those claiming unemployment benefits in my constituency, either Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit. These figures are provided to each local MP by the House of Commons Library each month. The update allows me to see the statistics and to look for any changes or issues which I might need to explore. The latest set of figures for January 2017, which includes areas like Plympton, Plymstock, Ivybridge and the surrounding villages, remained consistent with only 1% of the population claiming benefits for unemployment.

However, along with the news of this consistent 1% figure comes the number of local 18-24 year olds who are unemployed each month. This figure has also remained the same - there were 105 unemployed 18-24 year olds in January 2017 compared to 105 in January 2016. Whilst I am pleased to see the number of over 25s claiming unemployment benefits has not increased, I feel no relief in seeing that the number of unemployed under 25s has not decreased.

This is why I was very happy to share news from Network Rail of apprenticeships available in my constituency. Whilst there is a relatively low rate of unemployment amongst over 25 year olds, there are still around 105 young people from 18-24 looking for work. The exciting news is that there are local businesses looking for apprentices and keen to have the opportunity to provide training, skills, and future employment. Linking employers with local young people is key. Never more so than when you hear that four in five of those young men and women who have completed an apprenticeship with Network Rail in the last ten years are still working for the company.

Research has shown that Plymouth sees the most manufacturing employment of any city south of the Midlands. We are fortunate to have companies in my South West Devon constituency offering apprenticeships such as MGB and Network Rail as well as companies like Babcock in other parts of Plymouth. There are also many local construction firms eager to share their trades with future generations.

The Sherford development just outside Plymstock will see homes being built for the next 20-25 years. The Joint Local Plan for the South Hams, Plymouth and West Devon sets out plans to fulfil the needs for housing, retail and leisure facilities in the area from now until 2031. The need for apprentices is only going to grow. We need more and more young people and those returning to work to gain the skills needed to see these much needed developments through.

I will continue to shout loudly about the opportunities for working together in this way, both locally and through my work in Westminster.