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Volume 597: debated on Monday 22 June 2015

Apprenticeships give young people the chance to reach their potential, giving them the skills and training required to achieve a successful career. The Government have funded training elements of apprenticeships in England, and between 2009-10 and 2013-14 there has been a 40% increase in the number of young people starting one.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Conservative commitment to create an additional 3 million apprenticeships over this Parliament will give young people the skills they need to get on in life? Will she tell the House what she is doing to work with both the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to ensure that the quality of those new apprenticeships is top notch and improving all the time?

Let me start by commending my hon. Friend and fellow Essex MP for his work in this area, particularly with his local employers, many of whom I have met and know. He is of course right to say that our commitment to create 3 million apprenticeships will give young people the vital skills to reach their full potential. We are already working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and employers as part of our apprenticeship reforms to ensure that Britain’s young people get a quality apprenticeship that will help them to reach their full potential.

While there are indeed some excellent apprenticeships—there is no doubt about that—sadly, all too often there are employers who use them as, in effect, a rebranded youth training scheme or youth opportunities programme-type arrangement. What will the Minister do to publish details of employers who abuse the apprenticeship system, or does the scrutiny simply not allow for that?

We all know, and this House recognises, that apprenticeships are vital. They give young people the chance to learn the skills to reach their full potential. [Interruption.] I hear an Opposition Member chuntering away. Employers play a vital role in this scheme. I have already touched on the fact that we are working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on our reforms and delivering 3 million apprenticeships. Employers will be at the heart of that, providing quality training and accountability in their role with apprenticeships.

20. On a recent visit to Fuel Conservation Services in Hednesford, I saw the impact that access to apprenticeships and high-quality training has on young people entering the workplace. Will my right hon. Friend join me in praising the work of businesses like FCS in offering apprenticeships to young people? [Interruption.] Does she recognise the role that businesses can play in working with the Government on initiatives to tackle youth unemployment? (900459)

Let me start by welcoming my hon. Friend to the House as a new Member of Parliament. It is interesting to hear the conversations among those on the Opposition Benches. They do not like success stories, such as that of the business in my hon. Friend’s constituency. I commend her local business. It is important that the House recognises the vital contribution that employers like FCS make in offering young people apprenticeships. She touches on a very valuable point: they support young people in the transition from school to the world of work, which we know is challenging for young people, and we will support employers in that.

Having served an apprenticeship under a dual system of high-quality apprenticeships, I ask the Minister to accept that employers have to play a much larger role in providing the skills space for our apprentices, and that just expanding level 2 apprenticeships is not sufficient.

I welcome the hon. Lady’s comments. This is all about quality. The quality of the apprenticeships is what we should concern ourselves with: working with employers in particular to make sure that they are giving our young people not just the hopes and aspirations but the skills they require for their own businesses and sectors to enable succession planning within companies and sectors. Also, we have made a commitment to deliver 3 million new apprenticeships, and we are absolutely clear that they should now provide parity with a degree-equivalent qualification. Employers play an important role in delivering that.