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Volume 173: debated on Tuesday 22 May 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will estimate the numbers of employees receiving training in Britain.

Figures from the labour force survey show that, in the spring of 1989, 3·1 million employees received job-related training in the four weeks prior to the survey. That was an increase of more than 70 per cent. compared with the same period in 1984.

When will the Minister recognise that in the north-east of England the coal mining, shipbuilding and heavy engineering industries have now been decimated? They were the basis of good training schemes in the past. Such schemes need to be replaced by other means of training, which cannot be supported by the market forces philosophy. They need Government support. When will the Minister bear in mind the pleas of the Engineering Council and the Machine Tool Technologies Association for training, particularly in engineering, to be considered as a national asset, as it is in other European countries, where it does not necessarily respond to market forces?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that training is important to the future prosperity of the north-east, as it is in the rest of the country. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will join me in welcoming the splendid way in which the north-east has responded to the initiative to set up training and enterprise councils. Indeed, three of the first 10 TECs to be established were from the north-east.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, as the demographic trough bites in the 1990s, it is important that the reducing number of young people leaving school should receive the fullest possible training? Will he therefore liaise with his colleagues in the Department of Education and Science to ensure that, as the national curriculum develops, children leave school with the skills that they need to take advantage of the training opportunities that his Department is making available?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Liaison between schools and industry is extremely important. I pay tribute to the major contribution made by senior industrialists by going on to governing bodies of schools, by supporting the compacts scheme and various other schools—industry proposals that have been put forward, and are being put forward almost daily. They are extremely important. It is right that youngsters should be work-ready and training-ready when they leave school.