By 2019-20, we will be spending £2.5 billion on apprenticeships in England every year through the apprenticeship levy. In this Budget, we have given employers more flexibility to deploy it as they see best.
Greater investment in STEM—science, technology, engineering and maths—skills is key to boosting employment in our growing digital economy. What support can the Chief Secretary give to ensure more training is available to our next generation of scientists, engineers and tech entrepreneurs?
My hon. Friend is right. We know that people with STEM skills have higher earnings. That is why we put more money into the maths premium last year to encourage more students to study that subject from 16 to 18. This year, we have launched a new programme to enable the better retention of maths and physics teachers in our schools.
If, as the Chief Secretary says, there is now more money for skills funding, why did not the Chancellor announce in his Budget speech an uplifting of the cap on sixth-form and college funding from £4,000, which is causing real problems?
What the Chancellor announced in his Budget speech is the fact that we are giving employers more flexibility over apprenticeships, which they have asked for, and we are seeing more and more people going into high-level apprenticeships under this Government.
Bearing in mind that two thirds of UK firms have expressed concerns about a skills gap, will the Minister further outline what steps her Department has taken to provide schemes and support to businesses that are willing to take on apprenticeships but have not so far done so?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: we want to encourage more small and medium-sized enterprises to take on apprenticeships. That is why we have reduced the level from 10% to 5% for co-investment, which will encourage more small firms to get involved, as well as extending the amount that can be used down the supply chain.