The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

Are rural areas getting their fair share of apprenticeships?

The Apprenticeship Levy was recently debated in Westminster Hall in which it was highlighted the great opportunity that apprenticeships offer to learn and earn and to keep talent in our local communities. To read the full debate click here.

The debate set us thinking here at the RSN on the opportunity for rural apprenticeships, so we approached Peter Aldous MP, as Chair of the APPG for FE & Lifelong Education and MP for a seat with a significant rural population for his thoughts. See Peter’s responses to our questions below:

Peter Aldous MP, Chair of APPG for FE and Lifelong Education

What are your thoughts on rural apprenticeships?

“Apprenticeships are vitally important in promoting economic development in rural communities. These are particularly important in rural areas that have traditionally had problems providing young people with the career opportunities they are looking for in their local area.

In many rural communities there is a sense of being left behind, and that they receive less attention in discussions about reducing regional inequalities than urban areas.  

So, if we are going to truly level-up across the country, while at the same time protecting our environment and meeting our net-zero objectives, then we need to have policies and strategies tailored to specific circumstances, needs and priorities – rural apprenticeships are a key element of that.”

How could apprenticeships benefit rural communities?  There is a lot of focus on agriculture in rural areas which is, of course, crucial.  However, many rural areas are tourist hotspots.

“Governments of recent years have had a bold vision for the role of apprenticeships, but it’s clear that the system isn’t really delivering what employers, young people and communities need.

One of my concerns is that there has been too much growth in take-up of higher-level apprenticeships for existing employees in big companies, at the expense of opportunities for young people and new labour market entrants in industries like hospitality where numbers have reduced.

In order to address this, I think we need to reform the apprenticeship levy and ensure many small companies, particularly those in the hospitality industry, are not put off by the bureaucracy.”

Many young people leave rural areas because they can’t afford to live there (high housing costs, poor public transport etc).  How would this impact on apprenticeships?

“Across the board, we’re seeing fewer and fewer younger people doing apprenticeships – we are now down to just 60,000 young people starting apprentices each year. This is an issue our APPG has highlighted in the past and have encouraged the government to address.

This of course has a big impact on constituencies like mine in Suffolk, were we’ve traditionally had problems with young people leaving the local area because of a lack of economic opportunities, in addition to high housing costs and poor transport links.

Building an apprenticeship system that works for employers and young people would help provide the skilled workforce the area needs, which would help both the local economy and in-turn ensure there are sufficient opportunities in our local communities so young people don’t feel compelled to leave in order to find skilled work.”

Find out more about the APPG for FE and Lifelong Education here.


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