It is our priority that all adults throughout England have the English and maths that they need to build successful careers and support their families. We have put English and maths at the heart of our schools reforms and fully fund basic English and maths courses for adults who lack those skills.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Will he join me in congratulating Swindon organisations such as Uplands Educational Trust and Enterprise Works that are providing training and support opportunities to adults with disabilities? What plans does he have to ensure that that provision can be enhanced and increased?
I am delighted to hear about creative enterprises such as Enterprise Works and Uplands Educational Trust in Swindon. I know that for many people with disabilities, school or adult education is a rewarding experience that helps them gain life skills. My hon. Friend is a passionate and effective champion of that, and I look forward to talking to him in more detail about those enterprises and others to ensure that we support disabled people as much as possible.
I know that the Minister will be as concerned as I am that unemployment among young adults is still more than 1 million, and that the number of apprenticeships among adults under the age of 19 is now below the level in 2010. Can he assure the House that in the next set of figures the number of apprentices under the age of 19 will increase? While he is at it, will he explain why he voted against Labour’s plans to use the power of public procurement to increase precisely those vitally needed apprenticeships?
Of course we do use public procurement to increase the number of apprenticeships, not least in Crossrail, which is the largest public procurement and construction project in Europe at the moment. It is true that we had to take action to remove some low-quality provision in the 16-to-19 space when we introduced rules to ensure that every apprenticeship was a job, which it had not previously been. I would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would welcome the improvement in quality. We also have a programme in hand to increase the numbers. Participation in apprenticeships is at the highest level ever, which I would have thought all parties would be able to support.
Young adults in north Northumberland who have left school without the basic skills to which the Minister referred do not have ready access to further education, because there are no college facilities within a reasonable distance of them. Will he work with potential providers to ensure that the gap is filled?
I have visited Northumberland college, which serves my right hon. Friend’s constituency, and it is an impressive institution. Of course, it is important to ensure that adult skills are available throughout our country, and as the recent OECD study showed, spreading English and maths skills is vital to ensuring not only that we can improve our competitiveness as a country but, most importantly, that we can allow everybody to participate. Improving technologies in teaching will help, but we must ensure that there is access to basic skills throughout the country.