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Graduates (Employability)

Volume 513: debated on Thursday 8 July 2010

We are committed to increasing employment by cutting the burden of national insurance on new businesses employing new staff in areas such as Plymouth. We are cutting corporation tax over the next four years. We are easing the burden of regulation. In addition, I have asked universities to provide public statements on what they do to promote employability, to encourage them to improve the job-readiness of their students and to do better at getting their students into internships, work experience and work.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Is he willing to meet me and the vice-chancellor of Plymouth university—the enterprise university—to discuss ways in which it might make greater commercial use of its excellent reputation in marine science research as well?

I have met the vice-chancellor of the university of Plymouth and corresponded with her when she praised the co-operation that she already had with my hon. Friend. Of course, I would be very happy to meet her. Those are exactly the kind of initiatives linking universities and business to promote economic growth that the Government are backing.

In October last year, the Minister said:

“At a time when the jobs market for young people is tougher than ever, it is far better to find them a place in education than to leave them languishing on the dole…whereas going to university will increase their qualifications and make them more employable in the long run.”

Will he confirm that that is no longer his view, in the light of the withdrawal of 10,000 university places?

In that statement, I announced my commitment to 10,000 extra places at university, when the then Government were planning a cut in the number of places at university. We have delivered those 10,000 extra places. There will be more places at university this year than the then Government originally planned, and we are proud of what we have achieved.

Given that the Office for Budget Responsibility has confirmed a rise in unemployment next year and that the Association of Graduate Recruiters estimates that vacancies for graduates will fall by 7%, what will the right hon. Gentleman do to support graduates in what will be the toughest year on record to get employment?

I have here the forecast from the OBR, and it is an endorsement of the measures that the Government took in the Budget. It makes it absolutely clear that it expects total employment in the economy to rise from 28.89 million now to 30.23 million in five years’ time, as a result of the decisions that the Government are taking. Of course, times are tough for students, but going to university and getting a degree remains a very good investment in people’s long-term prospects for well-paid employment, and we will encourage universities to focus on maximising the employability prospects of their students.