Against a backdrop of never ending economic doom and gloom where the announcement of job losses seems to be an almost daily occurrence, it was heartening to read in last week’s Express the news that Wakefield Council is to offer 30 apprenticeships to young unemployed people, thus helping the Wakefield Apprenticeship Challenge achieve 100 new career opportunities in 100 days.
While I would like to see the council offer a far greater number of such apprenticeships, its initiative is at least a step in the right direction in tackling the huge problem of youth unemployment in the area at the same time as developing the practical skills with which the council’s future work force will need to be fully equipped.
I am old enough to remember a time when apprenticeships, which were far more readily available than they are today, provided a viable career option for school leavers, enabling many young people to learn a trade which benefited not only themselves but society at large.
Over the years however, successive governments seem to have lost track of the real value of apprenticeships and have been on a mission to send an ever increasing number of young people to universities, sometimes on non-vocational courses of dubious academic merit with very limited job prospects on conclusion.
Although I am a fervent supporter of higher education I cannot believe that it is appropriate for everyone. By incentivising private companies and local councils to offer more apprenticeships which nurture the practical skills on which we all rely so heavily, the present government could do much to alleviate the scourge of youth unemployment. Whether it has the political will to do so is another matter.