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Miliband's £1 billion apprenticeship plans welcomed by companies

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Labour leader, Ed Miliband, used his keynote speech yesterday at the Labour party conference in Manchester to unveil education and apprenticeship reforms aimed at helping the "forgotten 50%" of British youngsters who do not go to university. A Labour party spokesman told HR Magazine that funding for the plans is going to come from "money that currently exists in quangos."

Former HR director at Morrisons and chairman of social enterprise group Create, Norman Pickavance, has welcomed the plans. He told HR magazine: "If we're going to compete in the premier league of business with other countries we need to raise the technology and industry skills of our young people."

He added: "Far too many young people are coming into jobs with little skills and qualifications, so this move is something that should benefit this country.

"Look at the German system. They have got such pride in their ethos - the way they have highly talented young people brought through. It's a system we can learn a lot from."

National chairman, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), John Walker said: "We welcome the Labour leader's view that employers should lead apprenticeships and that they would be able to draw funding themselves. We also agree and have called for the emphasis to be on quality apprenticeships.

He added: "We would be very concerned if public procurement was used as a driver to increase apprenticeship numbers. It's hard enough for small firms to access procurement contracts and so we would not want to see additional requirements in place."

SkillsActive, the UK skills champion for sport, leisure and wellbeing, has also reacted positively to Miliband's plans. CEO Ian Taylor said: "We welcome moves to prioritise and promote the value of vocation-based training and apprenticeships.

"Both the Government and employers themselves can help by focusing on vocationally-based training, which gives people precisely the skills employers seek."

He added: "By providing work placements, apprenticeships and school leaver programmes, initiatives in the sports and active leisure industry are already enhancing skills and employability, opening up careers for young people and creating value, in the form of much-needed talent for employers small and large."