Apprenticeships plan outlined by government

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David Cameron has pledged to support 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.

David Cameron has shared plans to increase the number of apprenticeship programmes that big businesses offer.

Companies bidding for government contracts worth more than £10m must show they have a "reasonable proportion" of apprentices.

"The greatest asset any employer has is their workforce," the Prime Minister said.

"And by investing in them, they are investing in the success and future of their business."

The government also reaffirmed plans for an apprenticeship levy, with large companies investing in a fund that is used to train workers.

The size of the levy has not yet been set, according to a spokesperson from 10 Downing Street.

"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," said Skills Minister Nick Boles.

A government consultation is seeking views on paying the levy, which is expected to be in place by April, 2017.

The plan for a levy raised questions from EEF, the manufacturers' organisation.

"With little detail of the level of the levy, who will be required to pay it and how much government will give back in return, manufacturers have a right to remain sceptical that the levy will create the three million additional quality apprenticeships that we all wish to see," Terry Scuoler, chief executive at EEF, said.

He added that a number of large manufacturers "will be surprised by the suggestion from government that it is they who are currently failing to invest in apprenticeships".

The government said levy systems already operated in more than 50 countries.

Productivity boost

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) welcomed the announcement of the apprentice plan.

"Apprenticeship schemes can play a part in meeting important ambitions to boost skills and drive-up productivity," said John Longworth, the business group's director general.

But he added that plans to encourage apprenticeships should focus on small businesses, not just larger corporations.

"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," Mr Longworth said.

The plan is part of the government's commitment to create three million apprenticeships by 2020.