SHADOW Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves poured praise onto the work being done at New College as she toured the building yesterday.
New College is finding success with a number of initiatives, including apprenticeships and work experience schemes, to forge links with local and national employers in a bid to find work for their students after graduation.
The Labour MP said such links are vital, but more work needs to be done in numeracy and literacy after it emerged one in 10 jobseekers lacks the most basic skills.
“We know a lot of people struggle in that transition into work,” she said. “If somebody knows they want to be a lawyer, then they have to make decisions about doing the right course in university.
“The same goes for trades and it needs to be started at a quite early stage. A business mentor can open up their minds and increase the range of things they can do. It might raise people’s aspirations and give them a variety of options for their future.
“If you come from a background where you do not know any people who have gone to university or entered a trade you won’t know what route to take, but because they are helping local businesses they are helping ensure people who study here are ready for work when they finish college.”
In January Rachel announced plans to introduce a Basic Skills Test to boost numeracy and literacy if Labour got into power.
“We need to make sure everybody has a basic level of skills, and the college here are doing some work with the Job Centre to boost numeracy and literacy,” she said. “We want to see that replicated on a national level.
“If people do not have those skills they should be required to go back to college to get them. We do see very high levels of long-term unemployment, and we need to make sure people are better able to get a job.
“The Government is incredibly complacent about the kinds of jobs we are seeing emerge. We have got a record number of part-time workers in this country.
“The Government seems to be doing a victory lap, but for ordinary people things are getting harder. The average worker is £1,600 worse off than in 2010.
“The Government needs to redouble their efforts to benefit the economic recovery.”
Rachel was joined by parliamentary candidate for South Swindon, Anne Snelgrove, and for North Swindon, Mark Dempsey.
Anne said: “Quite a lot of the time youngsters in Swindon are passed over because there is no understanding of what our young people can offer.
“But what I have heard today is company owners talking about all the amazing things the youngsters of Swindon can offer their business. They are now looking to employ youngsters to apprenticeships and will look here for new talent.
“I have spoken to young people who have ambitions to go to university or into apprenticeships, and this is about helping them find the right destination for them.
“The students are very hard-headed about where they are going and have one eye to the future, which is all very encouraging.”