Unite delegate Caroline Baikie highlighted the importance of apprenticeships in a debate about education and skills at the Labour Party Conference on Tuesday (September 28).
Caroline told conference that the party’s agenda for change “must include a comprehensive training and education programme”.
“It must answer the needs of young people now – and provide the skills we need for our collective future,” she said. “And high quality apprenticeships must be part of this discussion.”
Caroline went on to explain that when done properly, apprenticeships not only close the growing skills gap, but give young workers real prospects in critical, socially beneficial industries – like engineering, green manufacturing and construction.
“Unite has worked hard both in the workplace and with schools and colleges to encourage young people, and young women in particular, into apprenticeships,” she added.
Caroline herself works in the aerospace sector and she said she was especially proud of the work Unite has done in promoting science and engineering as a career choice for women.
But she told conference that “too often vital protections are still not in place”.
“The setting of clear standards, backed up with protections, is the shared role of our unions and our party,” she said. “That’s something we can win from the workplace – but Labour must support us wherever it is in power.
“That must mean minimum hours protections, with a fair, union-recognised wage. That must mean access to formal training, with genuine qualifications and a job offer,” Caroline continued, adding also that a safe environment, free from discrimination, was vital.
Caroline noted that “it must be this party’s ambition to demand and deliver a transformative investment in skills and apprenticeships.
“We hear much about ‘levelling up’ our regions. It’s time to level up our generations, delivering real prospects – backed up with protections,” she argued.
“That’s not only how we’ll build an economy and a society,” Caroline concluded, “It’s how we’ll make sure our movement is at the heart of it.”
By Hajera Blagg
Pic by Mark Thomas