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As Member of Parliament, I have organised a number of projects which aim to tackle local issues. Employment, particularly among young people, is a key concern in Islwyn and some of my local projects have been aimed at providing work experience and apprenticeship opportunities for young people.
Most 16 year olds leaving compulsory education will have made the decision to stay on at sixth form or college to continue an academic education, leading to a University degree. Perhaps surprisingly, only around one percent decide to enter vocational education, including work-based learning through apprenticeships.
The Careers Wales Annual Destinations Survey 2016 found that, since 2012, the number of Welsh students leaving Year 11 and entering work based-training dropped from 1.6% to 1.3%. For Year 12 it fell from 0.8% to 0.7%. For those leaving Year 13, the numbers increased slightly, from 1.3% to 1.6%.
Any increase is welcome, but the figures are still very low for what can be an exceptionally rewarding path. More must be done to ensure apprenticeships are seen as a realistic alternative to other forms of further education. A-Levels and University degrees are a good option for many career paths, but it is not the only route to a successful, high-skilled career.
That is why I pledged during the 2017 General Election to host an annual Apprenticeship Fair which will provide information to young people so that they can make an informed choice as they come to the end of compulsory education.
My first apprenticeship fair was held in November 2018. You can find out more about it here .
To me, it is a tragedy when someone becomes unemployed. Skills go to waste and society loses out. I believe everyone should have an opportunity to develop their talents to the fullest.
However, whenever I ask any young person about the barriers to getting a job the answer often seems to be the same – a lack of experience.
Without work experience it is difficult for young people to get on the job ladder. That is why I teamed up with local employers from across the constituency to launch the Islwyn Work Experience Programme.
The scheme offered 18-24 year olds the opportunity to gain experience by undertaking an 8 week placement with a local employer.
Not only did this provide a young person with practical experience of a workplace but it had no impact on their Jobs Seekers Allowance – enabling them to continue to look for permanent work.
While work experience can never be a substitute for a full time job, the programme seeks to ensure that young people will be able to get a feel of the world of work.