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Written Statements

Volume 582: debated on Wednesday 18 June 2014

Written Statements

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Business, Innovation and Skills

National Minimum Wage

I am pleased to announce that the Government have today written to the Low Pay Commission setting out the remit for its 2015 report.

The Government support the national minimum wage (NMW) because of the protection it provides to low-paid workers and the incentives to work it provides. Our aim is to have NMW rates that help as many low-paid workers as possible, while making sure that we do not damage their employment prospects.

The Low Pay Commission (LPC) is asked to:

Monitor, evaluate and review the levels of each of the different NMW rates and make recommendations on the levels it believes should apply from October 2015.

Consider whether any changes can be made to the apprentice rate:

to make the structure simpler and improve compliance; and

whether the structure and level of the apprentice rate should continue to be applied to all levels of apprenticeship, including higher levels.

Review the conditions that need to be in place to allow the value of the minimum wage to increase in real terms. This would include an update on their advice on the future path of the NMW.

In making recommendations in the areas set out above, the Low Pay Commission is asked to take account of the state of the economy, and employment and unemployment levels.

Timing

The LPC is asked to report to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills as early as possible in February 2015.

Copies of the remit have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Education

Technical and Vocational Qualifications

A successful economy needs qualifications that are of a high quality, benefit the young people that take them and are valued by employers. We are linking the whole education system more closely to the world of work: with more relevant, respected qualifications, more emphasis on the development of useful practical and technical skills, and greater employer influence over the design, delivery and assessment of qualifications.

In March we released “Getting the Job Done: The Government’s Reform Plan for Vocational Qualifications”. Today, I am announcing the introduction of two new categories of technical and vocational qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds. We expect new qualifications to be brought forward in each category, and existing qualifications to be categorised where they meet the required level of rigour and responsiveness to employer demand.

In the past employers knew that a young person who held, for example, a City and Guilds bricklaying qualification could be relied upon to construct a wall to a high standard. These qualifications then started to get lost among thousands of others. The introduction of tech levels, and now substantial vocational qualifications at level 2 for 16 to 19-year-olds and technical awards for 14 to 16-year-olds will restore confidence in the technical and vocational qualifications available for young people.

From September 2015, technical awards will sit alongside GCSEs for 14 to 16-year-olds, and mark the final stage of reform at key stage 4. At the same time, substantial vocational qualifications at level 2 will be introduced for students aged 16 to 19. Qualifications in each of these categories will be reported in school and college performance tables from 2017.

Technical awards will inject rigour into practical, technical and more skills-based qualifications for 14 to 16-year-olds. Developed in partnership with employers they will provide an opportunity to develop knowledge and practical skills that are essential in our growing economy, without restricting a student’s opportunities for progression at 16. These highly-valued qualifications, equivalent to GCSEs, will give students the opportunity to develop real-life practical skills, at the same time as studying reformed GCSEs in academic subjects.

Substantial vocational qualifications at level 2 provide students aged 16 to 19 with a route into a skilled trade or occupation, where employers recognise entry at this level (most construction trades, care work and hairdressing, for example). They will also provide access to tech levels. All of these qualifications will require public backing from employers, giving students confidence that the qualification they are taking is genuinely valued.

The Department for Education will publish today technical guidance for awarding organisations that sets out the requirements for technical awards and substantial vocational qualifications at level 2, as well as further quality requirements for tech levels and applied general qualifications at level 3.

In addition to the new types of technical and vocational qualifications, I am also announcing the first tech bac trailblazers. These are high performing schools and colleges that will deliver the three components of the technical baccalaureate (tech bac) performance tables measure to talented students from September 2014. The tech bac measure will recognise the achievement of students completing a tech level, level 3 mathematics (including AS level mathematics or the new core maths qualification) and an extended project qualification. It will be reported for the first time in school and college performance tables in January 2017.

The first tech bac trailblazers are:

Archbishop Holgate’s school, a high performing school in York, which will deliver tech level qualifications in art and design, IT and engineering as part of the tech bac trailblazer.

Barnet and Southgate college, one of the largest colleges in north London, where students will study tech levels in engineering, motorsport vehicle technology, IT and construction.

Blackpool Sixth, which will offer tech bac programmes in three key vocational areas: engineering, IT and creative media production.

Blessed George Napier Catholic school and sixth form in Oxfordshire, which will deliver tech level qualifications in travel and tourism and IT as part of the tech bac trailblazer.

Brockenhurst college in Hampshire, which offers a tech level in engineering that is publicly recognised by a number of professional bodies, including the Engineering Council, the Engineers Professors’ Council, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the employer Leibherr.

South Cheshire college, which will offer full tech bac programmes to all students studying tech levels in IT and engineering.

Warwickshire College, which will focus its tech bac trailblazer activities on a tech level qualification in manufacturing engineering.

Further details of the four categories of technical and vocational qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds and the technical baccalaureate measure, which have been the subject of previous announcements, are available on gov.uk.

Work and Pensions

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 19 June 2014 in Luxembourg.

The Council will finalise its contribution to the European Council to take place on 26 and 27 June 2014. The European semester 2014 discussion will focus on a number of documents linked to the European semester. There will also be a separate discussion on the social dimension of the European monetary union.

Council will seek a general approach on the European platform of undeclared work and will provide an update on a regulation for a European network of employment services (EURES). There will also be updates on directives on equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation and gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges.

Ministers will consider a set of Council conclusions on women and the economy.

Under any other business the presidency will provide updates on legislative files and other issues. There will also be information on the International Labour Organisation conference 2014 and the Roma summit. Finally, the Italian delegation will outline the work programme of their forthcoming presidency of the Council which begins on 1 July.