Liberal Democrats plan to make Britain the apprenticeship powerhouse of Europe by creating more new apprenticeship places per year than Germany. Central to the ambition is a commitment to double the number of employers offering apprenticeships to young people to 360,000 – as part of a big expansion of apprenticeships.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary, has led the drive to deliver more than 2.2 million apprenticeships in government, twice as many as were delivered under the last Labour government. This vast expansion was in apprenticeships which are, in general, longer (at least one year) and more advanced (level 3 and above).

The Liberal Democrats want to see:

  • New national colleges through the vision in Vince Cable’s Green Paper for a new generation of colleges filling the gap left by the abolition of polytechnics by Labour.
  • A concentration on higher apprenticeships – level four, foundation degree and above – building on the Coalition’s work.
  • An emphasis on apprenticeships in key areas of skill shortages: digital, construction and engineering.
  • Developing the emphasis on employer ownership with more apprenticeships to small and medium sized enterprises which currently have poorer take up.
  • A commitment to help employers by exempting them from national insurance when taking on apprentices and by providing hundreds of thousands of apprenticeship grants for small businesses throughout the next parliament.