THE number of young people on apprenticeships across Sunderland has almost doubled in the last year, according to new figures.
A report from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills compares the numbers on apprenticeships last year with the figures expected to apply at the end of this year.
The report shows the total number of young people on apprenticeships across Sunderland is expected to reach 4,390 by the end of the year, a 77 per cent rise on last year’s figure of 2,480.
Houghton and Sunderland South saw the steepest rise, up 94 per cent from 820 to 1,590. Apprenticeships in Sunderland Central rose 64 per cent, from 850 to 1,380, while the rate in Washington and Sunderland West increased from 810 to 1,420, an increase of 75 per cent.
Across the whole North East, the number of apprenticeships is up from 18,510 last year to an estimated 34,000, a rise of 84 per cent.
Councillor Robert Oliver, Sunderland City Council Tory group leader, said the rise was proof the Government’s efforts to tackle youth unemployment were working.
He said: “The Government is committed to spending £775million to boost the numbers of young people in Britain starting apprenticeships and, already, this is reaping rewards with the largest ever rise.
“As well as investing financially in apprenticeships, the bureaucracy which, for so long, made it difficult for businesses to hire apprentices has been reformed and more choice introduced.
“Progress in Sunderland has been outstanding and the new apprenticeships will help reduce youth unemployment by ensuring young people have the skills they need to secure jobs in the modern economy.
“In Germany, where youth unemployment is lower, there are more apprenticeships, which confirms the importance of matching the abilities and interests of individuals to the skills required by business.”
Just days ago, during a visit to the city, labour leader Ed Miliband criticised Government policies for causing spiralling rates of youth unemployment in the North East – although new figures for Sunderland revealed the number of 18- to 24-year-olds claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance had fallen from 3,790 to 3,665.
TUC North East regional secretary Kevin Rowan said the rise in apprenticeships was just a start.
“Obviously the increase in apprenticeships is something that is very welcome,” he said.
“The TUC has been working with the Government in an effort to try to increase the number of apprenticeships available and it is important to recognise the role played by employers, who have been willing to lake on young people. Certainly Nissan has led the way in this part of the world, along with the city council, which is very encouraging.
“However, we are still seeing youth unemployment increasing right across the region, and while apprenticeships are good for a lot of young people, many don’t have the opportunity or the qualifications to get onto an apprenticeship, so we still think there is a case for the Government to do more to support young people in developing their employment opportunities.”