National Apprenticeship Week is an annual celebration that aims to highlight the huge contributions made by apprentices and their employers.

This year, the theme is ‘Skills for Life’, and reflects on how apprenticeships can help people develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career, and how employers can support a workforce with future ready skills.

Yet despite their usual rhetoric, the reality is the Conservatives are failing a generation of young people.

More than a decade of decline in skills and training has not only robbed them of the opportunity to learn and upskill, but it has also held back our wider economy too.

In 2017, the Government introduced the ‘Apprenticeship Levy’ for large employers and scrapped previous funding for apprenticeships. The results are clear. When this change was made seven years ago, there were more than 1,000 apprenticeship starts in Ipswich, and over 6,000 across Suffolk. That number has now fallen by more than 25%, with less than 750 and 4,500 apprenticeship starts, respectively.

The increased costs, risks and bureaucracy has resulted in far fewer businesses taking on apprentices.

People have to navigate an incoherent skills system, with short-term programmes piled on top of one another.

This myriad of often unsuitable options across a confusing landscape has left no clear pathway. It has created a lose-lose-lose situation where young people and adults are left without opportunities, businesses with growing skills shortages, and our country without growth.

While the Conservatives might pretend that nothing is wrong, the rest of us can see businesses unable to fill job vacancies; public services, like the NHS, experiencing growing skills shortages; young people leaving compulsory education unable to find high quality apprenticeships, training or job opportunities.

We have got to end this piecemeal approach to education and skills by creating a new system.

To do this, we have got to start early by training new careers advisors to give every young person access to professional advice and guidance at their school or college. This will be paired with high-quality, practical work experience.

From there, Labour will open up access to high quality vocational and technical training pathways, enabling young people to develop skills that will help them to thrive, meet employers' needs and support a growing economy.

This work will be overseen by a new national body, Skills England, to steer a transformational approach to skills – the government working hand-in-glove with employers, colleges, training providers and unions to design the system our country needs.

Labour will also reform the Conservatives’ failed ‘Apprenticeships Levy’ into a ‘Growth & Skills Levy’ which will be used on the greater range of training courses that businesses tell us they require.

Under this new system, companies will have the freedom to use up to 50% of their total levy contributions on non-apprenticeship training, with at least half reserved for apprenticeships.

This will give businesses the flexibility needed to train their workforce, and unlock investment in essential skills that we need to prepare Britain for the challenges of the next decade.

New Technical Excellence Colleges will also be introduced, leading to a network of specialised colleges stretching across the country to meet the skills needs of local businesses and communities.

Finally, Labour will devolve skills and training budgets so that the right decisions for our towns and regions can be taken in the right places, delivering on local priorities.

From digital to green skills, childcare to social care, Labour will harness the abundance of talent we have in Ipswich and Suffolk.

We’ll provide more training opportunities so people can gain new skills, access better jobs, and grow our economy. That’s the difference a Labour government will make.