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Volume 493: debated on Monday 8 June 2009

1. How many (a) apprenticeships and (b) other training opportunities she estimates will be available on the main Olympic site. (278218)

I certainly am.

In January this year the Olympic Delivery Authority announced that an additional 250 apprenticeships would be created on the Olympic park, bringing the total number of apprenticeships there to 350. That will be achieved in a number of ways. Critically, the ODA will mandate that apprentices should make up 3 per cent. of project work forces for the remaining £500 million worth of contracts that are still to be tendered for; it is worth underlining the fact that that level of apprenticeship investment represents three times the industry average for London and the south-east. It increases the ODA’s overall target for trainees, apprentices and work placements to 2,250. That is an important and ambitious target in ensuring that the legacy of the Olympics will be a local population that is more skilled and qualified to stay in work.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer and for the Government’s continuing commitment to providing apprenticeships and training on the Olympic site. However, given that the Olympics are a fairly time-limited project, and that Crossrail and the development along the lower Lea valley is coming up, will she assure me that the apprenticeships and training opportunities currently provided on the Olympic site will be rolled out into those new development and construction opportunities?

I thank my hon. Friend. I should like to place on the record my recognition and gratitude to her, and other Members with constituencies in the Olympic borough, for their advocacy for this level of investment in apprenticeships and skills. I give her the assurance that she seeks. The skills academy, which is currently training apprentices for the Olympic park, will continue its work. London’s construction industry is an ageing one. We are recruiting new young apprentices who will be able to transfer to other major infrastructure projects such as the Crossrail programme, on which construction is to start shortly; that is another example of the Olympic legacy.

How satisfied is the Minister about the security clearance and immigration status of all the apprentices and everyone else working on the Olympic site?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that, as the Border and Immigration Agency is embedded in the Olympic Delivery Authority, regular checks are undertaken to ensure that not only apprentices but everybody who works in the Olympic park is entitled to do so.

I welcome what the Minister says about apprenticeships. However, the depressing news of the election of two BNP members underlines the importance of targeting apprenticeships, training and employment opportunities on the main Olympic site at local people. Does the Minister regret that there has been a drop in the proportion of local people employed on the Olympic park, can she confirm whether there has been a similar drop in the number of apprentices and trainees from the local area, and what action is she taking to redress that problem?

The hon. Gentleman is correct that the recent figures show a reduction from 23 per cent. to 20 per cent. in the proportion of local people working in the park, but he should also recognise that the actual numbers of local people working there have increased. In fact, when I looked at the apprenticeship figures, I saw that they mirrored that. About 20 per cent. of young apprentices are from local boroughs, but 50 per cent. are from London. The five Olympic boroughs are among the most diverse communities in London. They are optimistic and committed to the Olympics, and in everything they do as part of the Olympics they are a powerful argument against the hatred and racism of the BNP.