Having lived in North Kensington for over 30 years, I am well aware of the very variable opportunities available to young people, and how they are sadly too often missed. Those who have fallen out of work and education for whatever reason are unable to find a way out of their predicament, as the back-up is sadly lacking.
There are paths to mobilising skills and intelligence that can bring out the best in our young people who are not academic. Those who are disregarded, frozen out or even expelled from mainstream schooling in the quest for higher ranking in league tables, should be able to find fulfilling and stable employment with a good career path. Where would our society be without retail workers and management, hospitality workers, delivery drivers, skilled manual workers in engineering and manufacture, and – highly relevant to K&C – home maintenance and improvement, and of course construction workers with numerous skill sets?
For years we have relied on skilled workers from migrant communities, many from Eastern Europe. However, with the fear of being unable to renew work visas, many have left. The Construction Industry Training Board reported that in 2016, 50,000 had returned to their countries of origin, leaving a huge skills gap. We do not have sufficient courses or indeed teachers or funding to fill that gap, yet short-sighted politicians talk about ‘taking back control’.
The government’s ‘apprenticeship levy’ was supposed to fill that gap, and brought in £1.39bn in its first year up to April 2018. However, just £108m has been drawn down, indicating that employers are struggling to navigate the system. Clearly a new approach is overdue.
I will continue to campaign for better training and apprenticeships for our young people so they can all attain the dignity of fulfilling and well-paid employment which is suited to their skills and a career they can enjoy.