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By Ian Dipple Friday 11 July 2014 Updated: 11/07 10:42
BOROUGH schools would be forced to provide work experience to pupils if Labour wins the next General Election, according to one of the party's senior figures.
Rachel Reeves MP, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, told the Standard they would also restore a proper careers advice service in schools and create a new vocational baccalaureate to put practical training on a par with academic qualifications.
Ms Reeves was speaking on a visit to Church Hill on Monday (July 7) where she met with Zoe Gardner, owner of Cutting Edge hair salon, who has been recognised for her dedication to training and apprenticeships in particular. She also spoke with students from RSA Arrow Vale, which still provides work experience for pupils despite the Government deciding in 2012 it was no longer compulsory for 14 to 16-year-olds.
Ms Reeves said it was a mistake Labour would reverse as part of its bid to ensure vocational qualifications were not seen as second class to a university education.
"Many young people are leaving school without any idea what they are going to do or what they want to do. We believe work experience and careers advice needs to be central to what schools do," she said.
"The last Labour government was hugely successful in getting more people to go to university but governments for a generation or more have neglected vocational education and Labour want to put that right."
The number of apprenticeships created in Redditch have doubled since 2007 to over 1,000 last year but the Leeds West MP said not enough were aimed at young people and of a high enough quality to deliver the skills businesses needed.
She also accused the Government of neglecting those struggling to afford the cost of living, despite unemployment in Redditch falling to 2008 levels and a record number of business start-ups.
Ms Reeves said a future Labour government would ensure the minimum wage increased above average earnings during the next Parliament and crackdown on the abuse of zero hours contracts.
"This government shrugs its shoulders and says all is okay the economy has recovered but for many people things feel harder, not easier, than they did last year or the year before last and the Government need to do a lot more to ensure people feel the economic recovery is benefiting them and their families."
But Redditch MP Karen Lumley said: "It's actions that count and we are doing something. We are on course to create two million apprenticeships by the end of this Parliament and we've got two million people back into work in the private sector.
"We've got a long-term economic plan, Labour have got no plan. They left this country in a mess and the number of people not in education, employment or training was higher when they left office than it is today."
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