Research centres should employ apprentices, says shadow business secretary

Catapult Centres, set up by the government to promote research and development collaboration between scientists, engineers and businesses, employ fewer than 100 apprentices, according to Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary.

Umunna said the centres, specialising in fields such as ‘precision medicine’ and ‘offshore renewable energy’, should play a major role in boosting the huge number of new skilled apprenticeships David Cameron has vowed to generate.

Since 2010, 2.2 million new apprenticeships have been created by the Conservative Party and the Coalition government. Cameron has now pledged to creating a further three million apprenticeships by 2020.

The Catapult Centre performing best in this regard is the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry with 58 apprentices. However, three of the centres have no apprentices at all.

Umunna told The Independent: “Catapult Centres, initiated by the last Labour government, play a unique role bridging the gap between innovation and industry so that cutting edge ideas can become the success stories of tomorrow.

“The Government claims it is committed to closing the productivity gap and creating more opportunities for high-skilled, better-paid jobs, particularly for young people. The Catapult Centres have a huge role to play here, but these figures show that disappointingly they currently only offer a handful of apprenticeships.

“Instead of being ignored, Catapults should be put front and centre of plans to increase the number of quality apprenticeships and grow the jobs of the future.”