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Skills Training

Volume 588: debated on Thursday 20 November 2014

11. What steps he is taking to ensure that the UK’s system of skills training is relevant to the changing structure of work. (906144)

The important thing is to put employers in control of the training system, as far as possible. We are doing that by putting employers in control of designing apprenticeship standards and of the funding that goes towards apprenticeships, and by ensuring that all vocational and technical qualifications have business recognition if they are to be approved for state funding.

I have a little secret, which is that I had a hand in the all-party Higher Education Commission’s report, which was soundly rejected even though it was based on good evidence. I also had a hand in “Still in Tune? The Skills System and the Changing Structures of Work”, which was published today. It is a good, cross-party report which points out that it is not just the employers but the people who receive the training who have the real stake in that education, because it will last them the rest of their lives.

As usual, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The people who receive the training are the customers; they are the people on whose behalf we are making the investment, and it is crucial to take their opinions into account. However, that does not dilute the crucial importance of employers being the judge of whether training is worth anything or not.

Will my hon. Friend acknowledge the work being done by university technical colleges in training young people for trades and apprenticeships? Will he recognise the work of the Burnley UTC, which is training young people from the age of 14 to be engineers and to work in the construction industry?

My hon. Friend does valuable work as one of the Government’s apprenticeship ambassadors. He has probably single-handedly persuaded more companies to offer apprenticeships to young people than anyone other than my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones), who is also an apprenticeship ambassador. UTCs are crucial, and we have many more coming through the pipeline. The Burnley UTC is absolutely a jewel in the crown.

Last month, I attended the groundbreaking ceremony at Humberside airport, where BAE Systems has invested £5 million in a training academy. The project is supported by North Lincolnshire council and the regional growth fund, and provides opportunities for 60 apprenticeships each year. Does the Minister agree that this is just the sort of project where the Government and local authorities should support private industry, in training for the future?

I congratulate my hon. Friend’s local council on supporting that project and, in particular, I congratulate BAE Systems, which provides some of the best apprenticeships anywhere in Europe. A young lady recently secured a first-class degree through her BAE Systems apprenticeship. That is what apprenticeships can offer and we need to create many more of them.