By Jonathan Davies

Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to guarantee an apprenticeship for every school leaver who gets the required grades.

Outlining his business support policies ahead of May's general election, Mr Miliband said that Labour is pledging to create more apprenticeships every year and every school leaver will be guaranteed an apprenticeship by the end of the next parliament.

School leavers will be required to have achieve Level 3 qualifications, the equivalent of two A Levels.

Labour are set to create an extra 80,000 apprenticeships, with 33,000 coming from the HS2 project alone.

Speaking at a Jaguar Land Rover plant in Wolverhampton, the leader of the opposition also announced for support for small businesses, including a cut and freeze to business rates and improved access to finance through a British investment bank to support regional banks.

Ed Miliband said: "It is time to match the aspirations of our young people with the high quality apprenticeships they deserve.

"So under the next Labour government, if you get the grades at 18 you will be guaranteed an apprenticeship. That is what I mean by a better plan for working people, a better plan for Britain."

Go further

Various business organisations praised the pledges made by Ed Miliband, but some called for him and his party to go further.

The self-employment body, Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE), called for more measures to help micro-businesses.

Andy Chamberlain, Deputy Director of Policy and External Affairs at IPSE, said: “Mr Miliband’s announcement to cut and freeze business rates will undoubtedly help small businesses, but this should be extended to include workhubs. Self-employed professionals up and down the country benefit from using workhubs which provide a space to work and collaborate with other freelancers. By cutting business rates for workhubs, this will encourage the enhanced rollout of these facilities and help the self-employed reach their full potential.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said that small businesses must be a key focus for the next government. John Allan, National Chairman of the FSB, said: "As is now widely accepted, the success of the UK economy depends on the health of small businesses. They must be at the heart of the next Government's economic plans. We are therefore pleased to see the Labour Party's specific acknowledgement that small businesses need support to raise their productivity."

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