asked the Secretary of State for Employment what measures he is taking to promote the development of industrial training in the Northern Region.
The Northern Region has seven skillcentres plus three annexes, providing 2,013 training places in all. I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that this is a higher proportion of skillcentre places to working population than in any other region and is considered adequate for the present needs of the region. In addition, over 4,500 people were receiving training in January 1977 in colleges of further education and employers' establishments. The Training Services Agency will continue to make use of spare capacity in local colleges of further education and employers' establishments to develop industrial training.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that detailed answer. Is he aware that there is a widespread feeling in the Northern Region that there is a greater need for group schemes, especially to cater for the smaller engineering employer in some of the more scattered areas of the region, some of whom, among other things, experience financial difficulties in making provision for training? Will my hon. Friend look into that?
That is a valuable and useful contribution. As my hon. Friend said, some of the firms are likely to be particularly benefited by such group schemes. I shall draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of the Chairman of the Engineering Industry Training Board. No doubt he will be interested and will be in touch with my hon. Friend. I shall also draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of the Training Services Agency.
Several Hon. Members rose—
Questions on the Northern Region. Mr. Burden.
Is it not a fact that there is an apparent reluctance on the part of people throughout the country to enter training centres to learn skills that would get them jobs in the engineering industry, such as capstan lathe-setting and operating, and milling and grinding? Is it not the case that there is a considerable shortage of people with these skills and that, once trained, such people could get employment almost immediately? What steps can the Minister take to stimulate people into undertaking this type of training?
It is true that in some areas there are such shortages of skilled engineeering craftsmen. However, there are difficulties in matching the needs of one region in terms of the vacancies there with the surplus of manpower in another. It is here that the Employment Services Agency has a rôle to play in enabling greater mobility of labour.
Will my hon. Friend take into account the fact that the Northern Region has always been heavily handicapped by unemployment and a lack of training services? While he is building up the efficiency of the training services and the number of training places in the region, will he also try to bring up the Yorkshire and Humberside Region to the same standard?
My hon. Friend, who has a constituency adjacent to mine, will be delighted to learn that it is hoped that the Doncaster skillcentre will be open this year.