In the period from April to December 2011, 33 core DEFRA employees have been completing apprenticeship training programmes. We also fund apprenticeships across the DEFRA family of arm’s length bodies. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew should be specially commended for having 67 apprenticeships.
Will my right hon. Friend support the parliamentary apprentice school that I have set up with a charity, New Deal of the Mind, and hire an apprentice under that scheme? Will she consider adopting the standard contract that Department for Work and Pensions Ministers introduced last year, which has led to an extra 2,000 apprentices being hired by their suppliers?
I warmly commend my hon. Friend for his scheme, which all hon. Members understand has absolutely at its heart the desire to create opportunities for young people to get into work. I would be delighted if he would like to come and discuss his scheme with me at the Department.
I am very pleased to hear that there are apprentices in the Secretary of State’s Department, but I would be more pleased if I knew that she was pushing hard for more apprentices in agriculture, with every farmer taking on more apprentices and everyone in the environmental sector around the country taking on apprentices. We need more young people to have jobs. Although the workfare scheme has run into problems, it is wrong for young people to be unemployed and on benefit. If there is anything she can do to help, will she please do it?
I share absolutely the hon. Gentleman’s passion for seeing young people given the opportunity to work. That is one of the reasons why we announced 50,000 apprenticeships in the food and drink industry, precisely to create those opportunities for young people to work in this important industry.