To mark National Apprenticeship Week, Central YMCA Training centres around the country have been presenting awards to their pre-apprentice learners, apprentices, employers and staff.
They’ve also been promoting their Transforming Education Manifesto which asks the government for better funding in a variety of forms.
Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell presented awards at the Manchester centre and spoke about the need for certain changes to apprenticeships and further education in general.
Powell, who sits on the House of Commons Education Committee, said: “There’s no point on the one hand saying you want to give parity of esteem to vocational and on the other, cut back budgets in further education by more than 25%.”
There was a large reduction in the number of apprenticeships starting between May and October 2017 following changes to public funding and the introduction of an apprenticeship levy paid by employers.
According to Lady Andree Deane-Barron, YMCA’s Group Education and Skills Development Director, their apprenticeship programmes are heavily subsidised by the charity.
She explained that an element of public funding they receive goes towards mean-tested bursaries of £30 per week, but this pot runs out before the end of the academic year because most learners at their centres fall into that category of need.
Lady Deane Barron said: “It’s about travelling to the centre and being able to catch a bus or a train and maybe buy some lunch.”
In their manifesto, YMCA call on the government to launch a new ‘social mobility fund’ to ensure that those who are ‘hard to reach’ can access employment and apprenticeships.
Horticulture learners at the Salford centre said that pre-apprenticeship programmes have given them a second chance, but emphasised the importance of mean-tested bursaries which allow them to participate.
One horticulture learner, Candice Ferguson, said that she wouldn’t be able to get to the centre without the financial support she receives.
She said: “That funding helps me get to college, extra money for food… So without the funding, I think for people who come here who don’t live local, I don’t think they’d probably come here.”