BUSINESSES in Gloucestershire are increasingly going to be relying on apprentices to provide the pipeline for future jobs recruitment in both private and public sectors.

So, I am very concerned about the way in which Further Education - through colleges like SGS in Stroud - is funded.

It is just not keeping up with the needs of employers at a time when we have record employment and business is desperate for good, young recruits.

Developing apprenticeships, which have fallen off a cliff through lack of funding and clarity-over the past year, especially to small business (SMEs) must not be allowed to stall.

I have just interviewed Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton in the Commons about how the government plans to get apprenticeships back on track and rescue some FE colleges from what is a serious cash shortfall.

In fact, it is so serious that the recent Augur report-actually commissioned by the government-has said that an extra £1b needs to be injected into FE.

Hitherto, the lion’s share of money has gone into Higher Education - not to the colleges that will be producing our apprentices of the future.

This must stop.

Gloucestershire’s new Industrial Strategy needs to have young people, and their future employment, at its heart.

Ms Milton gave me an assurance about FE under a new PM.

“I think both the leadership candidates have said they would like to see more money going into FE,” she said.

“The proof is in the pudding. The dialogue over the last 10 to 15 years has been dominated by Higher Education, so either of the candidates who become PM, I will hold their feet to the fire on making sure that that FE gets the attention it deserves”.

Here in Gloucestershire, we will be watching to see that happen. We cannot short-change the future employability of our young people.