240 young people and adults in Macclesfield started an apprenticeship in the six months from August 2008 to January 2009. This is an increase from 190 in the same period in 2007/08, and shows the result of the extra investment we have made in apprenticeships in England.
Nationally the number of apprenticeship places has also increased dramatically. 225,000 people started apprenticeships last year, up from only 65,000 in 1996/97.
I and ministerial colleagues have met with a number of individuals and organisations to discuss access to Apprenticeships for people with Learning Difficulties and/or Disabilities. There have been no recent discussions with Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) specifically on this topic. As public bodies, SSCs are expected to promote equality for disabled people in their work. The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill allows the provision of assistance and support in relation to finding Apprenticeships places and we are presently consulting on the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England.
We made clear in World-class Apprenticeships that the level of apprenticeship provision in the public sector was poor and that we should take action to improve the situation. This has happened and we have a broad programme of activity right across the public sector to increase the number of apprentices.
During Apprentices Week in February we announced that there will be 21,000 additional apprenticeship places in the public sector in 2009-10. My right hon. Friend the Communities Secretary committed to her Department working with the Local Government Association to deliver the ambition that 7,500 of these would be in local government, roughly doubling the number of places available in local authorities.
We have no detailed information about the number of apprentices in the third sector. We know this is an area where we need to develop more provision and the recently published prospectus for Group Training Associations will be an important opportunity to develop new ways to deliver apprenticeships in non-traditional areas.