This National Apprenticeships Week, a report by the Co-operative Group is bringing the opinions and voices of young people into the conversation. Gavin Shuker 18th March 2016 As National Apprenticeships Week draws to a close, I was pleased to read the Co-operative’s Group’s “Ways to Work for Young People” report, which highlights the increasing importance of apprenticeships in the further education and training of young people in Britain. Apprenticeships offer young people the chance to learn and train on the job, with a wage, holidays and continuing employment prospects National Apprenticeship week was started in 2008 under the last Labour as part of its effort to raise starts from 65,000 in 1996/7 to 279,700 by 2009/10. In my hometown of Luton we had 1,730 apprenticeship scheme starts in 2014/15 which shows how crucial these schemes are to our local young people’s employment prospects. The Co-operative Group is doing important work in bringing the opinions and voices of young people into this conversation, and our most effective schemes directly serve this group, who are seeking out these opportunities now more than ever. Central Bedfordshire College, with its four campuses in Luton, Dunstable and across the area, provides apprenticeship schemes across a range of careers including Business, Health & Social Care, IT, Construction, and Engineering. The Co-op Group’s report also raises an important point in noting that bridges can and must be built between young people and business. The report notes that just one in ten of those aged 18-25 feel that major businesses are genuinely interested in their needs, while 55 per cent feel there are too few employment opportunities. There is an opportunity for this to change in my hometown of Luton, which was built on car manufacturing, and continues to rely on companies like Vauxhall for quality engineering and mechanical manufacturing jobs, and as MP for Luton South, I welcome all and any efforts to promote quality apprenticeship in these subjects, as well as others which are growing as a share of our town’s economy. And while I welcome the government’s commitment to create 3 million starts apprenticeships across the country by 2020 we do have to be vigilant about maintaining the quality of these places. We need to ensure that there are enough apprenticeships with large and high-tech companies and businesses to fill demand.