Lidington: Apprenticeship scheme could become model for UK

David Lidington at the launch of Going for Gold at Missenden Abbey Conference Centre
David Lidington at the launch of Going for Gold at Missenden Abbey Conference Centre

Last week, I was invited to launch Going for Gold, a Bucks initiative to improve and showcase the quality of apprenticeships in our county.

I was encouraged by how the project had brought different organisations together. Bucks Business First and Bucks Thames Valley LEP, led by employers, had joined forces with training providers like Aylesbury College, Amersham & Wycombe College, ATG Training and Bucks UTC.

Our local authorities have also given it strong backing.

The message was clear: a united commitment to vocational education, training and apprenticeships.

Going for Gold (GFG) will be a kind of kitemark, evidence that the training is of a high standard and assuring employers that new apprentices have the right attitude and work ethic for their business.

It seems to me that there are three key big wins for us if we get GFG right.

First, there are so many different vocational qualifications and acronyms that students, parents and employers often find it hard to work out what value to place on a particular offer.

GFG should provide a golden thread through the maze.

Second, by establishing a gold standard for apprenticeships, we help develop a culture where vocational excellence is seen as different from but of equal value to academic achievement. Some European countries have made a tremendous success of vocational training, but in Britain we’ve never really matched that success. Yet many young men and women would not just be better suited but would actively prefer a first-class apprenticeship to a university degree course.

Third, GFG recognises that some young people will need support and mentoring before they can really benefit from an apprenticeship or hold down a job. Some come from chaotic or abusive homes, others have for whatever reason made a mess of their schooling. The GFG approach sees the right attitude to work as just as important as technical training.

If this initiative succeeds, Bucks could become a model for the rest of the country.