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Volume 569: debated on Thursday 24 October 2013

There were almost 860,000 people undertaking an apprenticeship last year; that is more than ever before. We have raised standards, introduced higher apprenticeships, made it easier for employers to engage and created the £1,500 apprenticeship grant to encourage more employers to recruit an apprentice for the first time.

Will the Minister’s Department do even more—a bit of ambition here—to help young people in my constituency taking part in schemes run by City College and organisations such as Proactive and make it his policy that suppliers winning public contracts worth more than £1 million should be required to offer apprenticeship opportunities on those contracts?

I would be delighted to work with the hon. Lady to promote apprenticeships in Brighton. I might point out that in her constituency the number of apprenticeship starts has doubled since 2010. We have taken action to ensure that quality is improved as well, but the more we can do to improve and widen the opportunities for people to go into apprenticeships the better.

The scandalously low number of women in engineering apprenticeships is a missed opportunity for young women themselves, engineering employers and the wider economy. Does the Minister share my concern about the continuing and powerful evidence of gender stereotyping in schools, particularly co-educational schools, and the low number of engineering companies taking action to improve work force diversity, revealed by the Institute of Engineering and Technology only this week?

Absolutely. I pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend on this subject and look forward to following his leadership in driving up the number of women in engineering apprenticeships.