The new government is putting apprenticeships at the centre of its plan for helping employers to meet their skills needs and guaranteeing a strong start for young people entering the world of work.

Local government is right behind this ambition, seeking to bring together young people and businesses in a way that can drive local growth and boost employment.

While there has been a jump in the number of apprentices and some examples of excellent practice, it is concerning that apprentices are more likely to be existing employees rather than new starters, that they are more likely to be over 25 than school-leavers, and that they are more likely to be associated with low skills and low pay.

At the national level, government can do more to prioritise investment in young people moving into the jobs market, and to improve the quality and added value achieved by public investment in apprenticeships.

But apprenticeships do not exist in a national vacuum – young people and employers live and operate in local areas, in cities, towns, counties, in real local economies.

So, in our view, transformation relies on giving all employers a platform to exercise genuine local leadership and recruit apprentices as and when they need them, on embedding all opportunities into a coherent local education landscape so that students are aware of them, and on equipping youngsters with the skills and experience to thrive in them.

With the greatest will and talent, government cannot achieve this alone. It must better enable councils to build on their local partnerships of schools, colleges and young people, to bind them together with local employers, and to focus everyone’s attention on the joint ambition to create and fill quality apprenticeships that transform lives and boost growth.

As a starting point, government should enable councils to develop new models such as apprenticeship hubs, devolve the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers to local areas, and transfer the statutory duty for providing impartial advice and guidance to local partnerships.

Longer term, councils and government must work together to radically rethink how we deliver public services to efficiently support a school-to-work transition that enables every young person to fulfil their full potential in life, learning and work.

It may not sound flash or new, but decades of initiatives have not proved effective. We cannot afford it anymore. It is time young people and employers come together locally to shape their own destinies.

Councillor Peter Box CBE
Chair of Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board,
Local Government Association

Councillor David Simmonds
Chair of LGA Children and Young People Board,
Local Government Association