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Volume 520: debated on Tuesday 21 December 2010

I am today setting out our proposed apprenticeships provisions in the forthcoming education Bill.

Apprenticeship offer to Young People—The Apprenticeships, Schools, Children and Learners Act 2009 (sections 91-99) introduced an “apprenticeship offer” for all suitably qualified young people who wanted one. Those young people are:

young people aged 16-18;

young people aged 19-24 who have a disability or learning difficulty; and

young people aged 19-24 who have been in local authority care.

This was to be achieved by placing a duty to secure sufficient number and variety of apprenticeship places for those eligible young people on the chief executive of skills funding. The sections of the Act covering the “offer” have not been commenced.

The education Bill will redefine the “offer”. It will place a higher duty on the chief executive of skills funding to prioritise funding for apprenticeship training for the same people who were covered by the apprenticeship offer and who have secured an apprenticeship.

This new duty will constitute a much more robust deal for these young people because it will ensure that the chief executive of skills funding gives priority for funding apprenticeship training to those eligible for the “redefined offer”. We will continue to work with those key stakeholders representing vulnerable and disadvantaged young people to ensure that they have equal access to “redefined offer”. This new duty will be more straightforward, more meaningful and less bureaucratic than the apprenticeship offer set out in sections 91-99 of the Apprenticeships, Schools, Children and Learners Act 2009 “apprenticeship offer”.

Amendments to functions of the Chief Executive of Skills Funding—The Apprenticeships, Schools, Children and Learners Act 2009 (section 6) names the chief executive of skills funding as the certifying authority for apprenticeships. We propose to amend this section in order to give the Secretary of State powers to designate the person or persons to be the certifying authority for apprenticeships in a manner which broadly mirrors similar provisions in Wales.

The rationale for this amendment is that this Government want to see the responsibility for issuing apprenticeships certificates remain with sector skills councils and other sector bodies rather than the national apprenticeships service, to whom the chief executive of skills funding would delegate this role. The national apprenticeships service will continue to have end to end responsibility for apprenticeships. However, under the new statutory apprenticeship arrangements, the intention is for sector skills councils and sector bodies to issue apprenticeship frameworks and are best placed therefore to ensure that the English framework requirements for the issue of a certificate in respect of the statutory completion conditions are met. In addition, there are currently no contingencies in the England provisions. The amended section will allow the same contingencies in England as in Wales that the Secretary of State may act as the certifying authority where there are no other appropriate persons to do so.