LORD Willie Haughey, the Labour peer and owner of City Facilities Management Holdings, has reiterated his opposition to the UK’s apprenticeship programme, claiming that “it has done nothing but put back the whole apprenticeship movement”.
Speaking just days after retail giant Tesco called on the UK Government to make urgent changes to the apprenticeship levy to enable it to train thousands of new employees as the industry struggles to find staff, Lord Haughey said that he had not spoken to any trade organisations or business that were in favour of it.
“There is not one who thinks the apprenticeship levy is a good idea,” he said, adding: “It has done nothing but put back the whole apprenticeship movement.”
Lord Haughey welcomed the current modern apprenticeships covering a wide range of sectors but noted: “We really have to look at the technical apprenticeships. I don’t know anyone who is an apprentice bricklayer, apprentice plumber, apprentice joiner – and where are the young green champions?”
Both Lord Haughey and Sir Tom Hunter, speaking on The Go Radio Business Show, agreed that the situation presented an opportunity for the Scottish Government, alluding to Deputy First Minister John Swinney’s role as Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery. Lord Haughey said: “This is a fantastic example of how we can use this crisis to turn it round to an advantage.”
Responding to show host Donald Martin who asked what the short-term solutions to the current labour shortage in the UK with the CBI warning that the situation could take two years to level out, Sir Tom pointed to Brexit having “sneaked under the radar because of Covid”.
He said that 364,000 EU nationals had left employment in Britain and are “not coming back”, adding: “Threat or opportunity? Definitely an opportunity but we have to get our act together.”
Lord Haughey, who has previously described the apprenticeship levy as “not fit for purpose”, said that the hub at the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre in Hamilton, headed up by chief executive Stephen Goode, had a key role to play. Sending a message to Mr Swinney, he said: “We’re here to help.”