Responding to a NECA scrutiny report into take up of apprenticeships in the North East, Newcastle Lib Dem councillor Greg Stone commented:
"The report does not paint a wholly positive picture. It is concerning that despite a very clear focus from the previous Coalition government on apprenticeships and a clear need for more employment opportunities for young people in the region, the take up of apprenticeships in the North East has been significantly below target and fell more sharply than nationally.
Whilst there is some evidence that take-up may be reduced by a greater tendency to stay in education until 18, the report suggests some significant weaknesses, including an insufficient supply of high quality applicants for opportunities in key sectors like engineering and manufacturing, insufficient supply of openings in business services, IT, digital and creative industries, and insufficient take up in catering, retail, and the health and social care sector. There are also concerns over relatively low pay levels and over the employability and work-readiness of some school leavers.
Overall, it appears that the Apprenticeship Hub system has underachieved to date in the North East, and it is good to see that steps are being taken to bring a new impetus to this important agenda. Lib Dems in the region expect that NECA and its portfolio holder for skills and employability Grant Davey [Labour leader of Northumberland] will be accountable for performance to date and will seek to ensure improvement, given the emphasis NECA has put on taking control of skills policy and funding in the proposed North East devolution deal. The region needs to do better on this front if we are to create skilled recruits, economic growth, and greater employment of young people."