By Gregg Houlden

We have a huge problem with youth unemployment and as I leave the UK today after a long 2 months. I wanted to share this great idea we should borrow from the Brits. It's not ground shaking innovation its eminently sensible pragmatic politics. Not every young person is cut out for college. Yet we shouldn't at that point write them off for a life of minimum wage mediocrity.

Vocational training is in many ways far better and produces the skilled workers industry scream out for. Some organizations do already provide apprenticeships yet I think we as a party should support national programs the support and promote companies to introduce apprenticeships. In the UK they have a well thought out program that partners community colleges, the government and employers to deliver well rounded programs that take youngsters aged 16 to 19 from high school (youngsters leave school at 16 in the UK btw).

The programs mix classroom further education with on the job training. The government supports the employers by providing partial funding towards the youngsters wages, money they would normally pay anyway via welfare. For business its a win win concept.  A new report from the Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) has found the average apprenticeship completer increases business productivity by £214 per week leading to increased profits, lower prices, better products and higher wages.

This figure rockets to £414 for engineering apprentices and £401 a week for construction and planning trainees.

And the number of annual apprenticeship completions is forecast to rise across all sectors of the economy over the coming decade, growing from an annual 260,000 in 2012/13 to 480,000 by 2021/22 - meaning the total amount contributed to the economy by 2022 will be £4.2 billion.

Charles Davis, head of macroeconomics at the CEBR said ahead of the report: "Raising the skills of the UK's workforce translates into improved UK competitiveness in a challenging post-financial crisis environment. This is a vital part of re-balancing the UK economy and raising the chances of sustained export-led growth."

Despite the evidence, many small employers were struggling to get the message, according to David Way, chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service.

The Service is working with Barclays (a Major British Bank) and charities Tomorrow's People and The Prince's Trust (A very good idea set up by Prince Charles) , as well as Route 2 training, to introduce the Bridges To Work scheme, designed to help 10,000 young people into work in the coming years. 

Through Bridges Into Work, businesses across England will be able to receive additional free support to take on an apprentice, whilst local Barclays Business Managers will help match up suitable apprentices and businesses in their area.

Way said: "I regularly speak to employers who tell me about the benefits that Apprenticeships bring to their business. Apprentices not only increase productivity but also bring creativity and dynamism into the workplace; the very best examples of which are being showcased in this year’s National Apprenticeship Week.

"We need to get this evidence across, particularly to small employers. The Bridges Into Work Programme will help us to do this, by being able to reach many more small businesses who would benefit from taking on an apprentice."

I also see a similar opportunity to offer welfare recipients still of working age this style of back to work scheme. What do you think?

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