David Cameron urges bosses to back apprenticeships plan
David Cameron has restated the importance of apprenticeships to his vision of a "One Nation" Government.
The Prime Minister has launched a consultation on the Government's planned apprenticeship levy which force larger employers to fund apprenticeships from 2017.
The CBI last month voiced concerns that the levy will do little to help small firms but Mr Cameron will insist his plans to create three million apprenticeships will give employers a workforce with the skills required.
Mr Cameron said: "The greatest asset any employer has is their workforce. And by investing in them, they are investing in the success and future of their business.
"As a One Nation government, we are committed to supporting three million quality apprenticeships over the next five years - to help strengthen our economy, deliver the skills that employers need and give millions more hard-working people financial security and a brighter future."
Mr Cameron also highlighted measures that will make the Government take a company's apprenticeship offer into account when awarding large contracts and revealed a new range of industry apprenticeship standards for a range of professions including nuclear engineers and fashion assistants.
Skills Minister Nick Boles said: "Skilled people are the lifeblood of a strong economy but for too long UK businesses have invested too little in developing their employees' skills to meet the demands of a competitive, global market.
"The apprenticeship levy will ensure that businesses invest in skills and training, and will act as a much needed shot in the arm for the country's productivity."
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced his desire to boost apprenticeships in road and rail industries, pledging 30,000 places by 2020.
John Longworth, director general at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said the focus should be on creating quality apprenticeships rather than hitting an arbitrary target.
He said: "It is right that the Government is seeking to engage businesses and consult on the introduction of an apprenticeship levy to make sure this policy is properly thought-through.
"Apprenticeship schemes can play a part in meeting important ambitions to boost skills and drive-up productivity. But for apprenticeships to take hold and become established, the focus should be on quality - not hitting an arbitrary figure. The conveyor belt model is not what business wants to see.
"If the quality is there, the demand, from employers and potential apprentices, will follow.
"BCC research shows that greater engagement with smaller businesses is needed to increase apprenticeship take-up. Government policy is currently too focused on major employers, but equal effort ought to be put on encouraging and supporting smaller businesses to offer apprenticeships."