Labour pledges skills focus to boost Britain’s next generation, by staff reporter


Ahead of last month’s quarterly immigration stats publication, Labour called on the government to “get a grip” of “sky-high immigration” by overhauling the skills system, to give Britain’s young people more opportunities to secure good jobs and brighter futures.

New stats released by Labour showed sharp drops in the number of apprenticeships completed in courses that lead to key jobs where there are current labour shortages.

Construction apprenticeships – which pave the way for bricklaying and other vital infrastructure roles – have plummeted by 38 per cent since 2017. Engineering and manufacturing completions have dropped by 49 per cent in the same period. While the numbers completing science and maths have fallen by a massive 67 per cent in that time.

It was announced in May that annual net migration has hit 606,000 – almost three times higher than when the Conservatives promised to reduce it in their 2019 election manifesto (232,000). The number of work visas granted has also doubled since the pandemic started.

Labour has accused Rishi Sunak of having no plan to address the high levels of immigration, the major cause of which has been 13 years of the Conservatives’ failure to train up homegrown talent to fill skills shortages, especially in health and social care.

Just last month it was announced bricklayers, plasterers and other construction jobs had been added to the Shortage Occupation List. They join care workers, engineers, web designers, laboratory technicians on the growing list of roles where a loophole allows for overseas recruitment that could mean applicants are paid 20 per cent less than the going rate and benefiting from a lower application fee.

Some of these roles – including nurses and engineers – have remained on the Shortage Occupation List for 15 years, without any concerted action to address the underlying causes.

Labour is committed to equipping the next generation with the skills and support needed to flourish. The party is setting out a series of proposals to ensure businesses seek to recruit and train local workers before looking overseas. These include:

* Scrapping the 20 per cent migrant worker wage discount on the salaries businesses are required to pay for jobs on the shortage lists

* Reforming the apprenticeship levy to support upskilling and skilling in key shortage areas including IT and engineering

* Placing responsibilities on employers who recruit from abroad to introduce new training plans and other requirements – including Labour’s plan for more homegrown doctors and nurses and Fair Pay Agreements for Social Care.

Stephen Kinnock MP, Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister, said: “It’s time the Tories backed Britain’s workers and got a grip on the double whammy of sky-high immigration and endemic skills shortages.

“With plummeting numbers getting apprenticeships in key jobs and an immigration system which incentives cheaper overseas recruitment, the Conservatives risk stunting the ambitions of a generation.

“In contrast, Labour will support homegrown talent and reduce reliance on migrant Labour. Our plans put skills and fairness at the heart of a properly managed and controlled immigration system. We will end the licence to undercut pay, which is unfair on everyone and undermines training and recruitment here at home, and ensure employers who do recruit from abroad introduce training plans to skill up Britain’s young people.”