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Apprenticeship motion prompts barbed debate in Parliament

The Gibraltar Government this week rejected an Opposition motion calling for a modern apprenticeship scheme, replacing it with a text that insisted the GSLP/Liberals had addressed a skills deficit and slashed unemployment.

The motion was tabled by Elliott Phillips, Shadow Minister for Training, who flagged up comments made by the Chamber of Commerce and Unite the Union in support of his call for high quality apprenticeships.

In setting out his motion Mr Phillips said he was passionate about the creation of better opportunities for Gibraltar’s young people.

“We as a community need to move fast in terms of the provision of quality training of skills otherwise we risk be left behind in the skills race if we don’t act now,” he told MPs.

“Brexit presents the biggest challenge to our community in recent times and the best investment in times of uncertainty is the investment we make in our own human capital; we must look to Brexit-proofing our community and we must make sure that our people are well-trained and well-skilled to face the challenges that may well come.”

Mr Phillips suggested that one of the crucial ways to create sustainable and long-term growth in the economy is to build a well-trained work force.

Not everyone is destined to complete a university degree, he told the House urging focus on developing a training and skills programme through an apprenticeship scheme which delivers on the demands for traditional skills as well as new modern skills.

“Let us not ignore the clear and unequivocal calls by the majority of people in our community on this issue, the calls by young people, parents, educators, Union representatives and business leaders…”

“We must not as a Parliament underestimate the strength of feeling on this issue and I would invite the Government to join us and the rest of the community and actively explore ways in which we can together develop an apprenticeship programme which meets the wider needs of our community.”

However, the debate soon descended into a series of barbed exchanges as MPs set out their respective party’s records in the area of employment and training and necessitated the intervention of the Speaker who urged relevance.

First to respond was Neil Costa, Minister for Employment up until the latest reshuffle, who slammed the motion as a “sad, uninspiring science-fictional piece of regrettably predictable partisan political theatre.”

He added: “On these benches we are unsure how this government or indeed any other government can train our compatriots for a business that is emerging, short of, of course, subscribing to Harry Potter’s book of wizardry asking for a fully-functioning crystal ball or indeed graduating from a yet to emerge masters in political voodoo.”

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