New cross-party Commission to increase quality apprentice numbers

Political big-hitters Robert Halfon MP & Lord Glasman co-chair cross-party venture to improve quantity and quality of vocational training across England
Think-tank Demos is launching a heavyweight cross-party commission to bolster the business case for increasing both the quality and quantity of apprenticeships, supported by industry trade body CITB.

The Commission on Apprenticeships, which will focus its work on the construction sector, will be co-chaired by Conservative MP Robert Halfon and Labour Peer Lord Glasman. The Commission will bring together policy experts, training providers and business leaders.

The Commission’s co-chairs have kicked off the project by issuing a challenge to Government and businesses saying apprenticeships in industries such as construction need to reach the next level if Britain is to succeed in the ‘global race’.

Analysis by CITB, reveals that in the construction industry alone 120,000 apprentices will be needed over the next five years to avoid the emergence of a damaging skills gap.

But the number of young people successfully completing apprenticeships in the sector has dropped since the financial crisis. In 2008/09 14,250 young people in England completed an apprenticeship, compared with just 8,630 in 2011/12.

Demos researchers have calculated that increasing the number of apprentices in England to catch up with similar economies would boost Britain’s GDP by £4bn a year.

The Commission will investigate

– How to increase the appetite for apprenticeships, both among young people and employers.
– How to ensure the quality of British apprenticeships is world-leading.
– How to ensure public money is spent efficiently whilst minimising red tape.

Conservative MP and co-chair of the Commission, Robert Halfon, said:

“The best way to improve living standards is to help people earn more. High quality apprenticeships do just that: better skills lead to better wages.

“As the first MP to take on an apprentice, I know how important an opportunity it can be to someone starting out in work. Expanding that opportunity to young people across Britain would not only be a huge benefit to them but also to the construction industry and the economy as a whole.”

Labour peer and fellow co-chair, Lord Glasman, said:

“Apprenticeships have a proud tradition in Britain that needs renewing. At their best, apprenticeships help people learn from others, build a sense of vocation and deliver work of real quality. Construction is a key sector for Britain, so it is vital senior politicians support it and the future of people working in it.”

Rt Hon. Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, said:

“Recovery of the British economy can only be secured if we have the necessary skills. Construction, in particular, already faces shortages and this could become acute as the recovery strengthens. That is why apprenticeships are crucial.

“I welcome the Apprenticeship Commission and hope it can support this work and provide the construction industry with a new vision for apprenticeship training.”

Duncan O’Leary, Research Director of the think-tank Demos – who will be leading the project – said:

“Construction accounts for 2.1 million jobs and 7% of the UK’s workforce. If we get apprenticeships right in this sector then we are on the right path. At Demos we are delighted to be working with an expert group that crosses party political boundaries.”

Stephen Radley, Director of Policy and Strategic Planning at CITB, said:

“Construction is in a race for talent that we are only going to win with fresh ideas and fresh thinking. That’s why we are supporting this vital work to drive quality apprenticeship numbers across construction.”




For more information on Demos visit

Spokespeople are available for interview. Contact Rob Macpherson (contacts below).

About CITB

CITB is the Industrial Training Board (ITB) for the construction industry in Great Britain (Scotland, England and Wales). We are working to ensure that construction employers have the right skills, in right place, at the right time by investing funds and providing a wide range of industry-led skills and training solutions.

We are also a partner in ConstructionSkills, the Sector Skills Council (SSC) for the UK construction industry, and we are raising employer engagement in training, providing labour market insights on future skills needs and developing standards and qualifications for the sector. For more details on our work please