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Apprenticeships

Volume 474: debated on Thursday 27 March 2008

9. What discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on the supply of skilled workers from new apprenticeships. (196486)

We are regularly in discussion with ministerial colleagues responsible for other Government Departments. There has been support from across the Government for the expansion of apprenticeships set out in our apprenticeships review, including the development of more public sector apprenticeships. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced an additional £60 million for skills development, including advanced apprenticeships, in the recent Budget.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Apprenticeships have been frozen in Scotland, so I congratulate him on the work that he is doing down here in England and in Wales. Will he have further dialogue with the Treasury to see whether he can use his reserved powers to try to assist employers and apprentices so that young lads and lasses in Scotland are not disadvantaged by the Scottish National party Administration?

I certainly understand my hon. Friend’s concerns. The skills strategy that the Scottish Executive recently produced contained only two mentions of apprenticeships in 61 pages, and no targets. Of course, our apprenticeships review says that we want to build on what we have already achieved, following the disasters of the previous Administration, to reach a position in a few years in which one in five young people can expect to go through an apprenticeship. This is a devolved matter. We have no direct way of influencing the Scottish Executive, but I wish that they shared our ambition for our young people.

Will the Secretary of State explain why 59 per cent. of 16 to 18-year-olds failed to complete their apprenticeships in the last year for which figures are available?

That comes from the party that used to have no concern at all about whether anyone completed their apprenticeships! The reality is that the completion rate in the apprenticeship system has risen from 23 to 63 per cent. As my hon. Friend the Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education said, that compares very well with international standards. We have achieved that by tackling weaknesses in the system when people need training providers to be replaced or to improve, and that is what we continue to do.

The right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) needs to acknowledge the Government’s incredible success in rebuilding apprenticeships after they had been destroyed by the previous Administration. When he does that, I will be happy to discuss with him the extra measures that need to be put in place. However, I say to him that if he is interested—