John Healey has set out Labour’s plan to boost skills and drive economic growth across Rotherham and Barnsley, as data reveals years of decline in apprenticeships and training.

Over the last eight years apprenticeship starts have declined by 1580 across Barnsley as the Tories have failed to equip individuals and the economy with the skills to meet national challenges including rising demand for digital skills.

To reverse this downward trend Labour will train over a thousand new careers advisors to provide professional advice and guidance at schools and colleges, alongside high-quality work experience for young people.

Wentworth and Dearne MP, John Healey, said: “Apprentices across Rotherham and Barnsley should be celebrated for their impact on our community and local economy.

“But over the last eight years the Government has been letting down our area with a decline in opportunities.

“Local young people and adults are ambitious for their families’ futures and want to learn new skills to get new jobs, or progress at work.

“Labour will reverse the decline, giving businesses the flexibility they need to train people up with new skills.”

Labour will give businesses the flexibility they’re asking for to train their workforce and deliver growth. It 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 used 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.

As part of a wider package of reform, Labour will establish Skills England, a new national body tasked with driving forward a national ambition to meet the skills needs of the next decade. This will be driven by pushing power and decisions on skills spending out from Westminster to local communities, so those communities can better match up skills training with their local business needs and grow local and regional economies.