In the last six years, the Conservative Government’s Education Secretary has changed on average every nine months. That is a staggering eight Education Secretaries in six years.  

Ultimately, this chopping and changing has left many communities, including ours without enough locally delivered Government support. The impact on youth in Whitehill & Bordon exemplified by the announced closure of the Future Skills Centre (FSC) is quite literally, life changing.  

These are the facts. During 2023, almost 1,500 16 and 17 year olds in Hampshire were not in education, training, or employment (NEET). That is an astonishing number. It has all sorts of potential negative impacts; increased likelihood of longer-term unemployment, poor health and for some, involvement in crime. 

The FSC was a lifeline for those whose potential lay in bricklaying, carpentry and other skills. It has produced some gifted students; I am told that one girl achieved 100 per cent in her assessments before receiving her CSCS card. Sixty applicants for the 2024-2025 academic year are impacted. They could travel to Basingstoke but given the poor transport connections, that is likely to be impossible for most. Sadly, many of them risk being categorized as NEET.

Government failures have led us to a skills crisis made worse by post-Brexit shortages. There is a particular gap in vocational training in schools, caused in large part by a lack of investment and support for youth where is it most needed.

It is why the Liberal Democrats had called for an expansion of the Apprenticeship Levy which would dramatically help social mobility and deliver a far better strategy for skills.

Recent figures tell us that more than £3 billion of the Apprenticeship Levy is not being spent because the way in which it is structured means that employers find the apprentice requirement to be too restrictive. 

In much the same way as NHS dentist contracts and NHS pharmacy contracts have been so badly thought through that they have driven away NHS dentists and pharmacists, so too has the Government driven away many employers who find themselves unable to offer apprenticeships. That quite probably includes some of the building companies operating right here in Whitehill & Bordon.

The Liberal Democrats have a better strategy for skills. We need to drive skills development, including putting in place strategies that encourage climate change and green skills. 

That cannot happen with this Conservative Government continuing to hold us back. 

Democracy must take its course and the people must now be allowed to vote out a Conservative Party which has betrayed even its own values and is no longer fit to govern.

For all those desperate to fix the broken system and bring about a much fairer society, a General Election can’t come soon enough.

Khalil Yousuf, Liberal Democrat Prospective MP, Farnham & Bordon