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Workplace Skills

Volume 587: debated on Monday 27 October 2014

11. What steps she is taking to equip young people with the skills they need to succeed in the workplace. (905639)

We have reformed the way in which 16-to-19 education is funded and the qualifications that count in league tables. We have also raised the quality of apprenticeships and traineeships, and enabled more students to take part in work experience. Students who do not hold at least a grade C in maths and English GCSE at age 16 are now also required to continue to study those subjects.

It is good to see schools such as All Hallows Catholic college making enterprise a priority in education. However, a recent study by the Chartered Management Institute pointed out that while 89% of businesses rate business experience as part of education, only 22% are prepared to provide such opportunities for young people. What steps are the Government taking to encourage more businesses to step up to the plate and provide opportunities for young people across the country?

The key change that we have made is to make it easier for colleges and schools to go out and actively create those work experience opportunities. Previously, colleges and schools offering 16-to-19 education were funded on the basis of the qualifications that students were taking, and that meant that they were not being rewarded for their work in creating work experience. Now they are funded per student, and work experience is specifically allowed as one of the things for which they can be funded. That has meant that further education colleges are now directly incentivised to create those work experience opportunities.

Has the Minister had any specific discussions with schools about pupils with learning disabilities and how we can help them get into work more quickly?

It is incredibly important that opportunities to work are not preserved for one group in society. We will be a fair and prosperous society only if we create opportunities involving all people, whether that is women in engineering or people with learning disabilities and other special needs. I visited my local college in Grantham the other week; it is working closely with local employers to create opportunities for young people with learning disabilities and other special needs to gain experience of employment. That is exactly what a great FE college will do in a community, and there are many such around the country.

22. Our new studio school in Warrington is providing a brilliant link between the school and the work force. It is supported by parents and all local employers. Will the Minister confirm that he intends to accelerate the roll-out of studio schools in Cheshire and more generally? (905651)

We are happy to take proposals for new studio schools from any area and any group of people who want to set one up, as we are for free schools and new university technical colleges. We do not have a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all policy: we believe in letting a thousand flowers bloom, and studio schools are an important part of that.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways in which schools can prepare young people for the workplace is by bringing businesses into their buildings? With that in mind, will he join me in congratulating Nigel Dawson and the Fearns community sports college in my constituency, which is hosting my jobs fair next week, on Halloween, with 200 vacancies and 31 employers in the school grounds during the holiday?

That is exactly the kind of enterprising initiative that we want all schools to undertake. It did, of course, take a particularly enterprising Member of Parliament to persuade them to do so, and I know that other schools will want to follow his lead.