BRITAIN is hooked on cheap foreign labour because the apprenticeship system is failing, experts warn.
And a radical shake-up is needed to link training to immigration policy for the first time, a Policy Exchange report says.
Figures out this week are expected to show net migration has hit nearly one million.
The UK has had to recruit brickies, roofers and tilers from abroad to plug skills gaps here.
Policy Exchange says money raised through the apprenticeship levy — a tax on businesses — should be used to boost training in all jobs on the occupation shortages list.
This will help wean the country off cheap foreign workers, bring down immigration and provide Brits with well-paying jobs to boost our economy, it said.
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The think tank’s David Goodhart said: “Failure to reform the apprenticeship system and train young people has left Britain hooked on cheap foreign labour.
Policy Exchange’s proposal to link the apprenticeship levy to immigration policy would allow businesses to train up our own workforce to fill jobs.”
The Sun on Sunday’s Builder Better Britain campaign calls for more people here to be trained via apprenticeships.
But the report reveals take-up has fallen from more than 500,000 in 2015/16 to just 349,190 last year.
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This fall is starkest among the working class, exactly the sort of people apprentices are aimed at helping.
The only area of growth is in degree-level apprenticeships, which risk being hogged by middle-class graduates, the report says.
Over the past five years, £4.3billion raised by the levy was not spent on apprenticeships, it found.
The number of apprenticeship starts for 16 to 18-year-olds fell by 41 per cent.
It fell by 31 per cent for those aged 19 to 24. Some of this drop is down to low-quality courses being scrapped.
However, experts say it is deeply worrying that take-up is falling even as ministers are trying to bang the drum for more vocational training.
The Department for Education said: “Thousands of employers are making good use of their levy funds.
“The levy has helped grow the apprenticeship budget to £2.7billion a year by 2024-25 — supporting employers of all sizes and in all sectors.
“In 2021/22, 99.6 per cent of that budget was spent.”