Party leader comes to Oaklands College to meet apprentices and businesses
- Credit: Archant
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable met apprentices and businesses during a flying visit to Oaklands College.
He joined the party’s parliamentary candidate for St Albans, Daisy Cooper, to meet representatives from Building Research Establishment, Rothamsted Research, and Airbus.
Sir Vince said: “As a Lib Dem member of the Coalition government I had responsibility for skills and further education colleges and we did a lot to better apprenticeships with a big increase in numbers and quality.
“I worry this new levy system is actually disrupting what we were accomplishing.”
The Apprentice Levy was introduced in April last year, and is charged to companies with a payroll of more than £3m.
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He explained: “It has effectively become a tax on companies over and above what they are already paying, and businesses say the Levy operates in an inflexible way.
“The answer is to reform this new system so it’s not a burden on good companies, and is flexible to support their training needs.
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“The deeper problem is we are stuck in this mindset in Britain where if you want to go to university, you get lots of support, but if you want to do a vocational course, the system does not encourage you.”
After speaking to the apprentices and businesses, he walked around the electrical workshop to look at ongoing projects.
Some of the apprentices had been working with Carillion, the outsourcing firm which recently went into liquidation.
Sir Vince said: “The apprentices and employees need to know they are working for stable, well-run companies.
“The government has, frankly, been a bit sloppy and have handed out vast amounts of sub-contracting work to these companies which have become too big and over-complicated.
“They have been operating business models where they piled on lots of debt, endangered their pension fund, and handed out big dividends.
“The government has got to monitor these companies more closely and give more work to smaller companies rather than these big four companies: Carillion, Capita, Atos, and Serco.”
Sir Vince added that he expected the party and Daisy Cooper would win the St Albans constituency at the next election.