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Apprenticeship Programmes

Volume 623: debated on Monday 20 March 2017

5. What steps her Department is taking to encourage small businesses to participate in apprenticeship programmes. (909323)

We have a wealth of advice and guidance for employers and small businesses through the “Employing an apprentice” and “Recruit an apprentice” pages of gov.uk. There is information for employers on all aspects of apprenticeship recruitment. This requires training organisations to post vacancies to be viewed by and applied for by candidates using the find an apprenticeship service.

Although they are keen to take on apprentices, I have small businesses in Cannock Chase that are finding it difficult to identify candidates. What are the Government doing to make it easier for small businesses to connect with local colleges and potential apprentices?

I thank my hon. Friend for her question and for her championship of apprenticeships in her constituency. We are doing a lot: we are spending millions to incentivise small businesses and providers to take on apprentices; we have a huge communication programme —43,000 small businesses have recently been contacted by the Skills Funding Agency’s “Get In. Go Far” programme—and we have a network of 500 apprenticeship ambassadors. We are doing all we can. It is worth noting that roughly 200,000 small businesses have apprentices.

The new register of apprenticeship training providers published last week excludes a significant number of successful training providers, including four in Birmingham, two in Coventry and one in Solihull. Is the Minister not aware that if he goes ahead with that decision, he will essentially be destroying technical education for 16-year-olds in the west midlands?

It is worth noting that 75.7% of those that applied to get on the register have been successful. One hundred and seventy further education colleges got on to the register, as did 178 providers of apprenticeship training in Birmingham. No existing apprentices in the colleges will be affected.

What message can I give small businesses in Kettering about the incentives given to apprenticeship training providers to link up with small businesses rather than larger ones?

The good news is that the taxpayer is spending millions of pounds to incentivise small businesses and providers to have apprenticeships. In addition, we have the huge communications programme that I highlighted earlier.

Employers have “high expectations”, the college has “good standards”, and young people are “ambassadors” for apprenticeships. That is the verdict of Ofsted on Birmingham Metropolitan College, yet it is one of four colleges in Birmingham— 13 in the west midlands—that have been denied access to the apprenticeship levy and will have to cease providing apprenticeships. Does the Minister begin to understand the outrage over this inexplicable decision? Will he meet Birmingham’s MPs, so that we can make further representations to him?

I am happy to meet MPs from Birmingham and any other area. The crucial aim behind the decision is to improve quality. Getting on the register is a competitive procurement process—everyone had to fulfil the same criteria. It is important to note that, from tomorrow, those that did not get on the register can reapply, so they may yet succeed.