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Volume 529: debated on Thursday 9 June 2011

In the Budget, we announced a further 40,000 apprenticeship places targeted at young unemployed people. That will be the catalyst for sustained joint working by the National Apprenticeship Service and Jobcentre Plus to maximise apprenticeship opportunities through contact with employers and client referral.

With business organisations and colleges in Great Yarmouth and Norwich doing their best for people in Norfolk and Great Yarmouth, what can the Minister do to ensure that the most disadvantaged people there continue to have good access to community learning?

I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend in the House that the National Apprenticeship Service will be delivering training on apprenticeships to Jobcentre Plus staff in Great Yarmouth on 22 June. I would like to invite him to be there on that occasion to see just how we can make available to people the kind of opportunities that he has championed with such vehemence.

What is the Minister’s strategy for getting more girls into apprenticeships in science, engineering and technology, where they are woefully under-represented?

I share the hon. Lady’s concern about that, and I have met the National Apprenticeship Service specifically to discuss opportunities for girls in such subjects. She will know that the wage return on apprenticeships in those areas tends to be higher than in other areas, so there is an added disadvantage to the fact that young women tend not to go into STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and maths. I am working on that, and will report back to the House further on progress.

15. What assessment he has made of the potential effect on economic growth of the provision of apprenticeship places; and if he will make a statement. (57793)

Our research suggests that completed intermediate and advanced apprenticeships both deliver net economic benefits in excess of £100,000 over the learner’s lifetime. The 170,000 apprentices who started in 2008-09 will therefore generate an additional £13 billion for the economy over their working lives.

The National Foundation for Educational Research has shown that the young apprenticeships scheme has been highly successful when it comes to GCSE results and progress into further education, training and, crucially, apprenticeships. If the Minister agrees that apprenticeships are such an important part of economic growth, will he reconsider the Government’s decision to scrap the highly successfully young apprenticeships scheme, which is good for young people and the economy?

The hon. Gentleman is a diligent member of the Select Committee on Education, and he will have heard me say to that Committee just yesterday that I am keen to ensure that the best of what we had in the young apprenticeships scheme is carried forward in ongoing work. There were cost-effectiveness issues, as I am sure he would acknowledge, but employers, learners and parents say that there was good value in some of what the scheme did. We will take note of that and move forward on that basis.

The issue of apprenticeships is important for the whole House, and for that reason the Backbench Business Committee has at short notice scheduled a debate on apprenticeships this afternoon. Does the Minister welcome the fact that the issue will be debated this afternoon?

Any opportunity that this House provides me to champion the cause of apprenticeships is to be celebrated, and celebrated this afternoon it will be.