Vince Cable under fire as apprencticeships slashed at business department

By Rowena Mason, Political Correspondent

Last Updated: 7:09PM BST 04/04/2012

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has been accused of failing to “practise what he preaches” after it emerged his own department has stopped offering apprenticeships.

Mr Cable has put support for apprenticeships at the heart of the Government’s “plan for growth”, urging Britain’s unemployed young people to take up vocational placements.

He has also claimed to be “very proud” of the Government’s commitment to funding apprenticeships at a time when budgets are tight.

However, it has now emerged that his own Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is no longer taking on new candidates on its own apprentice programme because of the spending cuts.

Figures show the department had 30 apprentices just before the Coalition came to power.

However, this more than halved to 14 over the course of last year and there will be between six and 10 remaining from this year.

Chuka Umunna, the Shadow Business Secretary, said the decline in apprentices in Mr Cable’s own department showed his lack of “urgency and leadership”.

“Despite the boasts of BIS ministers, it is clear that their actions have failed to live up to their rhetoric on apprenticeships and they are not practising what they preach,” he said.

“At a time when more than one million young people are unemployed, more than ever apprenticeships are crucial in providing opportunities, training and a route into work. BIS should be leading from the front in boosting apprenticeship numbers, but instead we have seen the number of apprentices at the department fall significantly.

A “Plan for Growth” published by BIS that states “supporting more apprenticeships than any previous government” is a “measurable benchmark against which the Government expects to be judged”.

Mr Cable has urged companies to offer the vocational training to people without degrees or other further education, offering cash incentives to businesses that start their own programmes.

John Hayes, a business minister, has even urged MPs to hire their own apprentices, saying the training is “at the heart” of Government policy.

However, a BIS spokesperson said the department was not currently taking on new apprentices.

“As part of cross-Government efforts to cut spending and reduce the budget deficit, BIS underwent a major restructuring last year which resulted in the loss of 22 per cent of the headcount and posts at all levels of the organisation,” she said.

“This has impacted on the department’s ability to recruit external apprentices and we have concentrated our efforts on offering internal apprentices to enable existing staff to upskill.

“We’re committed to growing apprenticeships with a focus on the private sector.”

Paul Champion
Strategic Project Manager

Mobile: 07540 704920

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