1.Labour’s scheme to trade work permits
for new apprenticeships faces practical difficulties. Work permits are nowadays
issued for higher level positions so apprentices would not be immediate
replacements. There would be no impact on low skilled migration which seems to
have been the context for this announcement.
2. On the Andrew Marr show on 22
September Ed Miliband outlined some plans for Labour’s immigration policy. He
said that within a year [of forming a government] he would legislate for an
immigration Bill which gave “secure control of our borders” and would focus on
cutting down on abuse and on the requirement for companies who recruit from
outside the EU to create an apprenticeship place for every non-EU worker they
hired. Ed Miliband stated that he wanted to reduce low skilled
immigration and as a result reduce overall immigration.
3. Apprenticeship numbers reached a low
of around 50,000 in 1990. Since then successive governments have been
rebuilding the programme. Anyone aged 16 or over and not in full-time education
can apply for an apprenticeship. They combine recognised training with a paid
job and cover a large number of roles in a wide range of industries, from
engineering to financial advice, veterinary services and nursing to accountancy.
4. There are now around 250,000 people
under 25 starting apprenticeships each year and another 180,000 over 25s (the
government expanded the apprenticeship scheme to all ages in 2009).
Labour’s Proposal to link non-EU
immigration to apprenticeship places
5. Ed Miliband indicated that companies
will be able to recruit non-EU workers (within a cap) but for each worker they
recruit they will have to create an apprenticeship place, so as to reduce their
requirement for non-EU workers in the future.
6. The shadow immigration minister has
since suggested that this will lead to an additional 100,000 apprenticeships
It is difficult to see how this figure is arrived at. Employers recruit
non-EU workers directly through Tier 2 (General) of the Points Based System
which allows employers to recruit new staff for graduate level occupations. It
is limited to 20,700 work permits a year although in 2012 only 9,420 were taken
up. Tier 2 (Intra-company transfers) allows employers to relocate
existing employees to the UK. In 2012 there were 30,000 ICT visas issued. The
shadow minster had stated these will be included but
has now said he will consult on the matter.  Given that some Indian computer companies
bring in several thousand ICT workers each year this will have a big impact on
the IT sector, although one that may be welcomed by many UK IT workers. (It is
not clear, however, whether ICTs would be also included the proposed ‘cap’ on
non-EU workers). The total must therefore embrace several years
worth of new apprenticeships.
7. There is also the base line
issue. Many companies that employ migrant workers already offer
apprenticeships. As their present plans are unknown, it will be difficult
to identify new apprenticeship places. As a result, implementation
is likely to be complex and bureaucratic.
8. The logic for the policy idea
appears to be that, in return for companies being able to recruit the non-EU
workers they currently need, they will undertake to use the apprenticeship
scheme to reduce their reliance on them in the future – “to train up the next
generation”. However, it not clear how much overlap there is between the
roles that apprentices will go on to take and the type of non-EU worker that
companies recruit. Since the Occupation levels for non-EU workers were
raised in 2011 (with the effect that care workers and curry chefs were
excluded) non-EU work permits have been restricted to work skilled to a
‘graduate’ level (NQF level 6). This scheme, therefore, may
not in fact train up replacements. Nor is it relevant to reducing
the need for ‘low-skilled’ immigration.
9. The ideas outlined to reduce ‘abuse’
such as enforcing the minimum wage and tackling recruitment agencies that only
advertise in other EU countries are useful steps but it is not clear that they
will have much impact on the scale of immigration.
twitter feed 23rd September 2013