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Volume 931: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment what effect the Government's special measures have had on filling the number of skilled vacancies.

The special training measures, assisting approximately 60,000 young people with their apprentice and other long-term training by August 1977, have been designed to make sure that sufficient skilled manpower will be available in the future. My right hon. Friend announced on 3rd March that a further £46 million was to be allocated which should support an extra 41,500 training places next year. The special measures provisions have also enabled the Training Services Agency to increase the numbers trained in skilled occupations under the Training Opportunities Scheme.

I thank the Minister for those figures. Does he recognise that high unemployment still masks a grave shortage of skills in the Northern Region? Does he agree that any area depends on skill for its industrial health and strength? Will he therefore agree that a good case can be made for retaining the excellent work force employed by C.A. Parsons at Newcastle?

It is important to have as great a skilled work force as possible in the North-East. I was there last week and representations were made to me. I assure the hon. Member that the Government are very concerned about the work force of C.A. Parsons.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the shortage of apprenticeships that are available today? Does he realise that there are already indications that if and when the economy takes off there will be a grave shortage of skilled apprentices? Does he not believe that at this time we should realistically consider whether the State should take responsibility for the training of all young people between the ages of 16 and 20?

The Government are proud that they have managed to sustain the level of apprentice training during a difficult period. It is not practicable for the State to take responsibility for the training of all young people between the ages of 16 and 20. Industrial training is primarily the responsibility of employers.