John Healey MP has set out plans to boost skills and drive economic growth across the borough as figures show a decade of decline in apprenticeships and training has left the country underprepared for the future.

This week is National Apprenticeships Week and latest figures show that over the last ten years the number of people starting an apprenticeship across the Wentworth and Dearne constituency has almost halved, down by 47%, with 650 fewer apprenticeships starts across the area in 2021/22 compared to 2011/12.

To reverse the downward trend Labour will give businesses the flexibility they’re asking for to train their workforce and deliver growth. The party will start by turning the Tories’ failed apprenticeships levy into a ‘Growth and Skills Levy’.

The Conservatives’ levy has seen millions of pounds that should be used for skills training going unspent, even as businesses report growing skills shortages. Giving businesses flexibility would ensure this money could be best spent on a greater range of training courses including basic English, maths and digital skills, so businesses can fill skills gaps and people can gain new skills to progress at work.

John Healey said: “Our community has been let down by the government for the past twelve years leading to a fall in the number of training opportunities available for young people and adults.

“People want to learn new skills to get new jobs, or progress at work but they are being failed, unable to find the training opportunities they need to help secure a future for themselves and their families.

“Labour will give businesses the flexibility they need to train people up with new skills and embed essential digital and life-skills across the school curriculum. This will ensure all young people receive professional careers advice and work experience, so they leave education ready for work and for life.”

Labour will set up a new taskforce, Skills England, to drive forward the skills needs of the next decade with power and decision making taken from Westminster and instead given to local communities. This will help match up skills training with local business needs to grow local and regional economies.