The first minister with ‘apprenticeships’ in his title wants to make them as prestigious as going to university.
Robert Halfon, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, spoke after meeting Greene King apprentices and students on apprenticeships courses at West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmunds on Wednesday.
He said: “We have degree apprenticeships now – you don’t have to take out a loan and you get paid while to do it.”
Apprenticeships now have academic equivalents, so a level two is equal to five GCSEs, rising to degree level. The minister met students in subjects ranging from car mechanics to pharmacy.
Mr Halfon said: “I want to make apprenticeships as prestigious as someone saying they go to Oxford.
“This college has done incredibly well and has visionary people running it.
“It has thousands of apprentices who are amazing students who are all going to have jobs. I call it a ladder of opportunity and this college gets people on the rungs of that ladder.”
He said the apprentices also had ‘fantastic support from employers.
Bury MP Jo Churchill said she had wanted him to see the good job the college does.
Phil Stittle, WSC’s head of business development, said employers are increasingly using apprenticeships. The number of WSC students on them is up from 1,600 last year to 4,000 this year.
He added: “You can have someone with no qualifications and someone with good grades and at the end of it they can both be at degree level.”