Apprenticeships for unemployed young Londoners

MQT on 2014-03-19
Session date: 
March 19, 2014
Question By: 
Andrew Boff
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Do you agree with Pimlico Plumbers that the Government should divert some of the £2.5 billion spent on out of work benefits for unemployed young people (under 25) towards funding small firms to take on these unemployed young people as apprentices?


Answer for Apprenticeships for unemployed young Londoners

Answer for Apprenticeships for unemployed young Londoners

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Andrew, yes, I think it is an interesting idea.  We are trying to get to the target of 250,000 apprenticeship starts by 2016, it is proving a real challenge, however a challenge I think we can meet.  We have done about 140,000 thus far.  I think Charlie Mullins’ [Managing Director, Pimlico Plumbers] idea in setting up the Pimlico Plumbers training academy, and I really congratulate him on that, he gets loads of young people into work and into his business.  What we want to do is to continue with our support for apprenticeships and to make sure that we continue with the £3,000 support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), the £3,000 per apprentice grant that we are able to make to SMEs to encourage them to take it up.


It is quite difficult at the moment to increase very rapidly the number of apprentices when the unemployment figures are starting to go down and employment is starting to go up, therefore as young people naturally start to get into work the apprenticeship numbers are getting harder to fill, however we are going to do it.


Andrew Boff AM:  I welcome those comments on a day when we have seen a further decline in the number of unemployed.  In London, and I am anticipating nationally, the number of young people or the number of people on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) was down by 34,000 according to today’s figures, all very welcome.  However, that still leaves nationally close to 330,000 people on Jobseekers Allowance, which means that there are probably around 29,000 to 30,000 in London, which is costing the taxpayer £85 million for those people not to be economically active.  Would it not be a better use of that money to effectively enhance apprenticeships, direct that money towards small businesses who have reported to me that, much as they welcome the support that has come from you with regard to supporting apprenticeships, if the Jobseekers Allowance, which would amount to about £3,000 per claimant, were to be applied to small businesses, it would effectively double the support that you are currently giving to small businesses to encourage apprenticeships.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It is a very interesting idea.  You would have to work out whether there were deadweight costs, whether you were continuing to pay JSA, as it were, when people were effectively in employment.  However I think it is definitely worth looking at.


Andrew Boff AM:  I appreciate that, because we are not talking about creating apprenticeships that would not get filled.  Charlie Mullins from Pimlico Plumbers reports that there are 15 applicants to every one apprenticeship he is offering in his remarkable scheme that he has.  Therefore it is not as though that would be a misuse of the money, this would mean real opportunities, real qualifications, and as one of Charlie Mullins’ apprentices said, he kept applying for six months for this apprenticeship position because the young unemployed know that if you get an apprenticeship, and as he says, effectively he is set up for life. Through that scheme he now has National Vocational Qualifications that mean that he would always be employed as a heating engineer, this is Billy Utting who has an apprenticeship at Pimlico Plumbers, he will always be employed because of the skills he has received from apprenticeships.  Should we not start being more intelligent with public money and investing it in real lifetime skills rather than paying for people not to work?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I understand that and it is the same logic, by the way, that led us to set up the Day One support thing we did with Chris Grayling [Secretary of State for Justice], which was when you had a 16 to 24-year-old who was just coming on to JSA. Mandatory employment was a condition of their getting the JSA.  It is a variant of that kind of idea.  I think it is well worth exploring.  We have not yet evaluated the Day One support programme.


Andrew Boff AM:  I very much appreciate that.  I appreciate your commitment, as I understand, to looking into this idea and, should it become favourable, could we jointly present it to the Department for Work and Pensions?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.  I am very keen to look at it in more detail.  I think we need to think through the consequences of continuing to pay JSA for a long time when somebody is effectively in work; we need to work out how that would work.


Andrew Boff AM:  Thank you.