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Adult Vocational Learning

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 31 March 2011

The aesthetic of vocational learning is at the very heart of our ambitions. I want apprenticeships to become the primary work-based learning route and apprentices to be recognised for their achievements. For too long, we have allowed the myth to be perpetrated that only academic accomplishment can lead to work. That is not so, and it is certainly not so for this Government.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work he has done in this area, and I thank him for that answer. However, does he agree that community and vocational courses are absolutely invaluable, not only for career advancement and upskilling but for younger people not in education, employment or training.

Yes, we spoke earlier about the importance of using those skills to create a bridge from disengagement to engagement. No one has been a doughtier champion of the need to stand up for those people than my hon. Friend. That requires a raising of the status of apprenticeships, but it also requires better progression, which is why I want to build an accessible, navigable and seductive vocational ladder that people can climb.

May I ask the Minister what discussions he has had with his counterparts in the Department for Education? The Secretary of State for Education consistently downgrades vocational qualifications in school. We cannot expect adults to value vocational education if we do not value it throughout the system. Is there not a disjunction in Government policy?

I am, for the purposes of this conversation at least, the Department for Education, and I can assure the hon. Lady that the Secretary of State for Education is wholly committed to this route. Indeed, his oral statement to the House earlier this week cemented and reinforced his commitment to apprenticeships and vocational learning.