Apprenticeship numbers have fallen sharply for the second year running in spite of the government making workplace training a cornerstone of its jobs policy.
Provisional numbers released by the Department for Business show 66,000 fewer people started apprenticeships in the last academic than in 2013/14.
Across the North-East 26,730 apprenticeships were started in 2014/15 – down by 3,750 from a year earlier, and a drop of almost 12,000 on the figure for 2011/12.
In Darlington the provisional year-on-year figures showed 220 fewer people started apprenticeships this year, while in Stockton there we 460 fewer.
A Government spokesperson said the provisional figure could be revised upwards when the final numbers are published later this year.
Skills Minister Nick Boles said: “Small, medium and large employers in the North-East are playing a crucial role in creating a modern and competitive workforce that boosts the country’s productivity and prosperity.
“I want to work with as many of these businesses as possible to ensure they continue to shape the future of apprenticeships so that we can reach the target of 3 million by 2020.”
However, the drive to boost skills appears to have stalled amid a steadily downward trend in apprenticeship take-ups over the last three years.
More businesses in the North-East have been ‘named and shamed’ by the Government for not paying the national minimum wage.
The businesses were revealed by Business Minister Jo Swinson and included employers not complying with minimum wage rules and having arrears of more than £100 owing to staff.
Those named and who are based in the region were:
- Mrs Karen Aitken, trading as Angel Hair Design, of Gainford, Darlington, neglecting to pay £703.33 to a worker
- Mrs Deborah Adcock, trading as LJ Beauty and Hair, of Seaham, neglecting to pay £463.60 to a worker
- Inn2inns Ltd, of Hemlington, Middlesbrough, neglecting to pay £323.10 to two workers
- Mr Assad Madani, trading as Dona Papa Pizza, in Chester-le-Street, neglecting to pay £101.64 to a worker
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which published the 70 strong list, said each case had been “thoroughly investigated” by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Ms Swinson said: “Paying less than the minimum wage is illegal, immoral and completely unacceptable.
“Naming and shaming gives a clear warning to employers who ignore the rules that they will face reputational consequences as well as financial penalties of up to £20,000 if they don’t pay the minimum wage.”
The GMB union said there were still far too few “wage dodging employers” being brought to justice and “bucket loads of evidence” that big firms in particular could afford to pay more.
The Government said it was increasing HMRC’s enforcement budget by a further £3m a year in a bid to recover hundreds of thousands of pounds owed to workers.
The GMB also said a wage offenders register should be kept by Company House with those on it deemed unfit to hold further directorships.
The current national minimum wage for those aged 21 and over is £6.50 an hour, although the Low Pay Commission yesterday recommended to ministers it increases by 20p to £6.70 an hour.
COMPANIES NATIONALLY PAYING LESS THAN THE MINIMUM WAGE
- East Midlands Crossroads – Caring for Carers, Nottingham, neglected to pay £37,592.56 to 184 workers.
- Delcom Systems Ltd, Salisbury neglected to pay £11,731.52 to a worker.
- S Hanns LLP, Chatham neglected to pay £8,448.84 to a worker.
- The Apostolic Church trading as James Kane Nursery, London, neglected to pay £8,347.71 to 2 workers.
- Young Friends Nursery Ltd, Hove, neglected to pay £6,789.71 to a worker.
- Station Garage (Little Weighton) Ltd, Little Weighton neglected to pay £5,440.77 to 2 workers.
- KRCS (Digital Solutions) Ltd, Nottingham, neglected to pay £5,161.85 to 5 workers.
- Mrs Shirley Elvin trading as Seaton Garage & Engineering Co, Hull, neglected to pay £4,840.31 to a worker.
- Pontcanna Hair Studio Ltd, Cardiff, neglected to pay £4,784.34 to a worker.
- Carol Ann Daker trading as Swan Hill House Residential Home, Shropshire, neglected to pay £4,395.78 to 27 workers.
- Hobby Horse Ltd, Plymouth, neglected to pay £4,049.31 to a worker.
- Fylde Coast Pizza Ltd trading as Papa Johns, Blackpool, neglected to pay £3,949.62 to 14 workers.
- Manleys Ltd, Belfast, neglected to pay £3,797.83 to 3 workers.
- J B Howard and Son Ltd, Leyland, neglected to pay £3,469.96 to 7 workers.
- Mr L Tolman & Mr S Blanchard trading as Mardi Gras Hotel, Blackpool, neglected to pay £3,206.76 to 3 workers.
- Stafforce Personnel Ltd, Rotherham, neglected to pay £3,044.79 to 63 workers.
- Best Start Ltd trading as Tiny Treasures Day Care Nursery, Birmingham, neglected to pay £2,928.95 to two workers.
- Maybury Automotive Ltd, Woking, neglected to pay £2,670.88 to 2 workers.
- C&R Tyres Ltd, Kelso, neglected to pay £2,261.60 to 3 workers.
- SSE PLC, Perth neglected to pay £2,233.95 to 5 workers.
- Encore Envelopes Ltd, Washington, neglected to pay £2,060.09 to a worker.
- SmileyWorld Ltd, London, neglected to pay £1,729.00 to a worker.
- Mancroft Ltd, Leeds, neglected to pay £1,172.97 to 3 workers.
- Kevin & Bernadette Farrell trading as Derrygonnelly Autos, Enniskillen, neglected to pay £1,690.35 to a worker.
- Delves Food & Wine Stop Ltd trading as Loco, Walsall, neglected to pay £1,152.48 to a worker.
- Webe (Chelmsford) Ltd, Chelmsford, neglected to pay £1,521.98 to 4 workers.
- Gregson Lane Garage Ltd, Preston, neglected to pay £1,431.57 to 2 workers.
- Ms Julie Ann Wright trading as The Worx, Portadown, neglected to pay £1,110.60 to a worker.
- Mr S Partridge & Ms M Shead trading as Cobblers Fine Sandwiches & Pastries, Wakefield, neglected to pay £1,003.83 to a worker.
- Mr Phillip Campbell & Mrs Lorraine Campbell trading as Supervalu Kells, Ballymena, neglected to pay £905.86 to 2 workers.
- Mr C Pask trading as Pask Hair & Beauty, Derby, neglected to pay £900.00 to 2 workers.
- J&G Salon Ltd trading as Jealousi & Garlands, Tamworth, neglected to pay £881.28 to a worker.
- Faster Fit Tyres Ltd, Scunthorpe, neglected to pay £719.30 to a worker.
- Mrs Karen Aitken trading as Angel Hair Design, Darlington, neglected to pay £703.33 to a worker.
- Clearshot Ltd, Manchester, neglected to pay £684.94 to a worker.
- Everest Express Ltd, Lincoln, neglected to pay £657.03 to a worker.
- Leisure Emporium Ltd trading as Brown’s Cafe Bar & Bistro, Nottingham, neglected to pay £643.86 to a worker.
- Mrs S Walker trading as Alleyways Fish & Chips, Scarborough, neglected to pay £601.59 to a worker.
- Gary & Toni Valentine trading as The Harbour Inn, Seaton, neglected to pay £584.42 to a worker.
- Shreeji Barnsley Ltd trading as Coffee Delight, Buxton, neglected to pay £555.70 to a worker.
- Rowe Sparkes Solicitors Ltd, Southsea, neglected to pay £530.96 to a worker.
- Fish Hairdressing Company Ltd, trading as Fish Hairdressing, Maidstone neglected to pay £521.82 to 3 workers.
- Mrs Deborah Adcock trading as LJ Beauty & Hair, Seaham, neglected to pay £463.60 to a worker.
- D&D Dies Ltd, Nottingham, neglected to pay £446.37 to a worker.
- G Joynson, D Joynson and C Joynson trading as Headquarters, Withernsea, neglected to pay £430.07 to a worker.
- Matchesfashion Ltd, London, neglected to pay £375.61 to 2 workers.
- Colin Saich trading as Lindcoly Kennels, Bury St. Edmunds, neglected to pay £338.41 to 9 workers.
- Inn2inns Ltd, Middlesbrough, neglected to pay £323.10 to 2 workers.
- 99p Land Ltd, Swindon, neglected to pay £315.26 to a worker.
- General Tarleton Ltd, Knaresborough, neglected to pay £300.62 to 6 workers.
- Western Computer Group Ltd, Bristol, neglected to pay £287.54 to a worker.
- Matrix Electrical Engineering Ltd, Harlow neglected to pay £286.60 to a worker.
- Honeybees Childcare Ltd, Preston, neglected to pay £276.30 to a worker.
- Mr G J Pearce trading as Sheppards Wood Service Station, Nottingham, neglected to pay £268.56 to a worker.
- The Mirrors Ltd, Manchester, neglected to pay £262.87 to a worker.
- A1 Techsol Ltd, Manchester, neglected to pay £233.47 to a worker.
- Mrs J Cole trading as Rayleigh Retreat, Rayleigh £231.73 to a worker.
- Hamlet Homes Properties Ltd, Westcliff-on-Sea neglected to pay £226.40 to a worker.
- Smartmove Property Specialists Ltd, Aldershot, neglected to pay £206.36 to a worker.
- EYFS Ltd trading as Oak Tree Day Nursery, London, neglected to pay £181.41 to a worker.
- Mr & Mrs P Munn trading as Merry Maids of the Weald, Tonbridge, neglected to pay £169.56 to a worker.
- Mr H Singleton trading as Willowbank Builders, Huddersfield, neglected to pay £163.89 to a worker.
- Professional Referral Services Ltd, Wigan, neglected to pay £156.93 to 2 workers.
- Amtec Computer Corporation Ltd, Ferndown, neglected to pay £149.64 to a worker.
- Lychgate Coffee Ltd, Wolverhampton, neglected to pay £124.39 to a worker.
- Finite International Logistics Ltd, Penarth, neglected to pay £119.92 to a worker.
- Drummonds Ltd, Manchester, neglected to pay £113.58 to a worker.
- Grove Mechanical Services Ltd, Magherafelt, neglected to pay £107.00 to 2 workers.
- Lin Chinese Takeaway Ltd, Stoke-on-Trent, neglected to pay £103.00 to a worker.
- Mr Assad Madani trading as Donapapa Pizza, Durham, neglected to pay £101.64 a worker.
The current National Minimum Wage rates are:
Adult rate (21 and over) – £6.50 per hour
18-20 year olds – £5.13 per hour
16-17 year olds – £3.79 per hour
Apprentice rate – £2.73 per hour
The apprentice rate applies to apprentices aged 16-18 and those aged 19 and over who are in their first year. All other apprentices are entitled to the National Minimum Wage rate for their age.
Source – Northern Echo, 24 Feb 2014
More than one in three businesses who took on North East school leavers rated their recruits as unprepared for work, a new survey has found.
The UK Commission for Employment and Skills, which is part of the Department for Business, asked organisations who took on 17 to 18-year-olds how they felt their new employees shaped up.
More than one in three employers in this region said the teens were “poor” or “very poor” – almost 20% more than the national average, and placing Newcastle and Sunderland behind the likes of Liverpool and Manchester.
When the question was asked of 16-year-old recruits, the proportion of dissatisfied firms rose to 38% in Newcastle.
A lack of experience of working life was the top reason cited by the city’s employers as the quality lacking from their 17 to 18 year old workers.
> Huh ? They’ve just left school ! How much experience do you expect them to have ?
That was followed by a poor attitude or personality, and a lack of the required skills.
> Lack of skillls ? Well, aren’t you supposed to teach them those skills ?
Poor attitude or personality ? Yeah, are you really the best judge of that, Mr Boss ? Not on the available evidence…
In response both the North East Chamber of Commerce and regional representatives of the Federation of Small Businesses renewed calls for greater links between industry and schools.
“There’s been a real debate for a long while about work readiness, and not just about school leavers, but about people leaving colleges as well,” said Ted Salmon, chairman of the FSB in the North East.
“Sometimes basic things are lacking – it’s not just about maths and English, but about the ability to interact with people, to write business letters or emails, and to get to work on time.
“And we can debate over what subjects are right to help people into work – but it needs to be part of a wider debate between business and education over how we can encourage more interaction.”
> What they really want is a conveyor-belt of disposable, low-wage slaves that already have all the skills even though they don’t know what job they might be doing.
Mr Salmon expressed concern at the apparent difficulties of speaking to schools in a non enterprise day context, with teachers nervous that closer ties with business could mean extra work for themselves or their pupils on top of the usual curriculum.
“Half the battle is showing teachers how what they already do can relate to business,” said Mr Salmon, “and just to even start that is so difficult because there are so many league tables and exam pressures.
“But when you go in and see the children on an enterprise day you see how switched on they are by it – so we need to break down that barrier and the frustrating lack of communication between schools and business.”
> Perhaps some teachers can see all too clearly where its all leading…
NECC director of policy, Ross Smith, agreed. “Links between education and business are essential to ensure we are producing young people who are ready to fill roles within the North East labour market and are comfortable in the working environment,” he said.
> 16-hour a week cleaning jobs ? Zero-hour contracts ? That seems to be mainly what’s on offer in my job searches within the North East labour market.
“Likewise, we must take the fear out of employing, training or simply giving experience to young people. According to our own 2014 Workforce Survey, businesses see this as costly, time-consuming and restrictive – this must be addressed.
> Or they could see it as an investment in the future. They always used to. But now, of course, its anything for a quick profit, including the workforce.
“A great deal of progress has been made in recent years, but we must continue to work hard if we are to make significant in-roads into addressing regional youth unemployment and potential skills shortages in key sectors in our region.”
> No, a great deal of progress has not been made – we’ve gone backwards, so that now everyone is expected to be fully trained before they start the job.
NECC’s own 2014 Workforce Survey actually painted a bleaker picture of what the region’s firms think of teenagers, with almost three quarters of employers reporting that sixth formers and college leavers were unprepared for work.
> Probably not as bleak a picture as what teenagers think of employers !
Just over half also complained that graduates were not ready – with the main reason given being a lack of work experience.
> Because they’ve just left school ! Good grief, it makes you wonder about the idiots running these companies… or perhaps not.
However, almost a third of the businesses surveyed admitted they don’t offer work experience placements to school pupils, with many saying that placements were too costly and time consuming, or that the requirements set by schools and colleges were too restrictive.
However 52% said they current offer apprenticeships for 16 to 24 year-olds .
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Dec 2014
The controversial sell-off of the Land Registry was abandoned yesterday (Monday, July 14), after ministers admitted it had run into overwhelming opposition.
The likely £1bn privatisation of the 150-year-old institution – which employs more than 400 civil servants in Durham City – was suspended indefinitely, MPs were told in a statement.
The decision followed strong criticism from solicitors and trades unions about putting a private firm in charge of all land and property data and the threat of higher charges for the public.
Yesterday, the Department for Business (BIS) admitted that 91 per cent of respondents to its consultation did not believe the shake-up would deliver services “more efficiently and effectively”.
In addition, 88 per cent of respondents “did not agree that the overall design provides the right checks and balances to protect the integrity of the register”.
In recent weeks, the Liberal Democrats had made clear they were getting cold feet – over a deal that the Conservatives hoped would raise substantial funds for the Treasury.
Business minister Michael Fallon told MPs: “Given the importance of the Land Registry to the effective operation of the UK property market, we have concluded that further consideration would be valuable.
However, Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods – while welcoming the move – urged ministers to come clean about their long-term intentions for the Land Registry.
Although officials briefed that the sale had been “abandoned”, BIS also said it still favoured privatisation and would continue to “develop the policy”.
Ms Blackman-Woods said: “I want them to scrap the whole idea, not just put it on hold this side of the general election.
“I will be writing to Vince Cable and Michael Fallon, asking them to accept the overwhelming evidence that this privatisation would create a conflict of interest and that people would not trust the data as much.”
Leading City firms had been approached for their advice on setting up a joint venture between the government and a private company, to take charge of the Land Registry.
BIS also considered turning it into a state-owned company that could be sold off, or letting a private company run the body as a so-called ‘GovCo’.
Yesterday, officials denied the U-turn was connected to fierce criticism of Dr Cable over the sell-off of Royal Mail – allegedly at a £1bn loss.
BIS also made clear that the Land Registry would press ahead with creating a single register, instead of separate lists maintained and delivered by 348 local authorities.
It said standardising fees and turnaround times would end the situation where fees vary between £3 and £96 across the country – and turnaround times between one and 42 days.
Source – Durham Times, 15 July 2014
More than 100,000 people have backed a campaign to keep the Land Registry in public ownership.
The Government held a consultation on the future of the 150-year-old institution, which handles land and property data and employs more than 400 civil servants in Durham City, earlier this year, with critics warning privatisation, huge job cuts, loss of confidence and higher charges for the public could follow.
At the weekend, a national newspaper reported Business Secretary Vince Cable had vetoed any sell-off, said to be worth around £1.2bn, as ‘just too complicated’.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the Government would publish its response to the consultation shortly.
Now Durham City Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods has joined Labour’s shadow business minister Toby Perkins, leaders of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and campaign group 38 Degrees in presenting a 100,000-name signature calling for the Registry to remain in the public sector to the Government.
Durham’s Land Registry office is said to be worth £10m a year to the local economy.
Dr Blackman-Woods said: “The Land Registry office in Durham provides many good jobs that we need locally and I don’t want this to be diminished in any way by potential privatisation.”
Universities and colleges in the North East could be stripped of millions of pounds in funding used to give students from poorer backgrounds a fairer chance of getting a degree.
The cash is at risk because the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is responsible for higher education, needs to make savings of £1.4bn.
Teesside University currently receives £5.9m each year, the University of Northumbria at Newcastle receives £3.5m, University of Sunderland receives £3.3m, University of Newcastle upon Tyne receives £1.1m, University of Durham receives £660,000, Newcastle College receives £959,00 and New College Durham receives £637,000.
The money, known as Student Opportunity funding, is allocated to universities and higher education colleges which succeed in attracting students from neighbourhoods where few people have traditionally taken part in higher education.
It also goes to institutions which succeed in retaining students who would statistically be more likely to drop out, and to those that recruit students with disabilities.
Leaked documents have revealed that the Department for Business is looking for ways to save £570m this year and a further £860m after the election.
Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is reported to be pushing for Student Opportunity funding to be abolished, while Business Secretary Vince Cable and Higher Education Minister David Willets are lobbying to keep it.
Asked to comment on the reports, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said in a statement: “The Department is going through the process of allocating budgets for 2014-15 and 2015-16 and will set out plans in the usual way.”
Prof Peter Fidler, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, was one of nine university leaders across the country to write a public letter warning: “The removal of this fund will damage economic growth and have a wider impact on sectors beyond higher education.”
The letter said that axing the fund “suggests that the Government is willing to abandon the cause of social mobility in higher education.”
The future of the fund was raised in the House of Commons by Labour’s Shadow Higher Education Minister Liam Byrne as MPs discussed funding for engineering students. He said: “On top of the huge cuts for educating 18-year-olds in college, we now hear rumours that the student opportunity fund that helps poorer future engineers will be completely axed.
“Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to promise the House that he will not sacrifice social mobility to pay for the chaos in his Department’s budget?”
In reply, Business Secretary Vince Cable highlighted £400m in funding for science, technology, engineering and maths courses – but did not comment on the future of the Student Opportunity Fund.
The National Union of Students has launched a campaign to preserve the funding.
Toni Pearce, NUS president, said: “Cutting the Student Opportunity Fund is an absolute disgrace and, in the wake of cuts to the National Scholarship Programme, looks like the Government is backtracking on its commitment to support social mobility in favour of balancing the books on the backs of the poor.”
Mr Byrne said: “The Department for Business budget is a complete mess because high paying students at private colleges got access to the state student loan system. Now it looks like help for poorer students will be axed to pay for it.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 25 Jan 2014