We are supporting young people to ensure that they have the skills and the high-quality, secure and fulfilling employment through the plan for jobs package with £500 million of Department for Education funding. This includes the largest ever expansion of traineeships and an increased incentive payment of £3,000 for employers hiring apprentices.
Future skills and technical education are at the forefront of skills investment in East Devon following the Prime Minister’s visit to launch the lifetime skills guarantee. Exeter College has opened a groundbreaking future skills centre and has also launched a new Institute of Technology Digital and Data Centre. Does the Secretary of State agree that Devon must continue to diversify in education to improve skills and career opportunities to help provide a future for more young people in Devon?
Having had the privilege of visiting Exeter College, I can say that, with its Institute of Technology, it is a brilliant example of how a college can expand its range of careers and opportunities for so many young people and ensure that they do not think that there is only one route, which is to go to university. My hon. Friend is right to highlight how important it is to have a broad range of opportunities, especially in the new and emerging technologies, which will be so vital in driving the economy forward in East Devon and the south-west.
I recently spoke to staff and students on a visit to Construction College Midlands based at King’s Norton Business Park, which offers courses on scaffolding, roofing and road maintenance. Does the Minister agree that those skills are vital to our economy and that what he and his Department are doing will help people to gain these new skills and to change jobs mid-career if they want to do so?
My hon. Friend raises a key point about making sure that people can skill up throughout their career and have the opportunity to take different routes. So much of British industry has been crying out for certain types of skills, which they have sometimes had to look abroad for. What is so key is ensuring that we have those skills available not just for young people, but for all people so that we can meet those skills needs in this country.
I am a great believer in the idea that a university education is not always the route to a high-quality job and that T-levels are a fantastic opportunity to provide not only the technical qualifications, but the industry placements, which are so important. Will my right hon. Friend support me in my drive and mission to encourage businesses in my constituency to come on board and provide those industry placements? It is a win-win situation not just for young adults, but for businesses because they can circumnavigate the recruitment process as they will have those candidates on board and can experience what they can deliver.
My hon. Friend has identified the real opportunities that exist for businesses in working with young people and colleges and bringing them into their company. T-levels have been designed hand in glove with employers, making sure that they are not only fit for employers, but work for students as well. I join her in encouraging employers to take on placements for T-levels. We are seeing a big expansion this year and expect an even bigger expansion next year.
Scotland has the highest proportion of school leavers going into positive destinations anywhere in the UK. Free tuition in schools, colleges and universities saves Scottish students up to £27,000. Given that fees will be imposed on English students seeking vocational courses, can the Minister detail what assessment has been carried out on the impact of fees for vocational courses in England?
We are working across the sector to ensure that there is an ever-expanded offer of higher technical qualifications. The lifetime skills guarantee has been introduced and has already had excellent take-up, which means that if people have missed a level 3 qualification, they have the opportunity later in life to take one completely free of charge in order to boost their future employment and earnings potential.
I thank my right hon. Friend for what he is doing on skills and for the Government’s excellent holiday activities programme over the summer. The attainment gap between boys and girls is widening, with 62.3% of boys receiving A to C grades at GCSE, but 74% of girls receiving the same results. What is he going to do to ensure that boys are not left behind, including in the jobs market?
My right hon. Friend and I are very much united in the same mission: to ensure that youngsters from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds are given every possible advantage to be able to do the very best in their life. There is a concern about the widening gap between boys and girls, which is why all the interventions regarding standards and small group tutoring are about driving up attainment and achievement. Some of the initiatives that we have introduced—such as the summer schools in which half a million students have taken part over the last few weeks and the tutoring programme—have started to have an impact, but I recognise that there is so much more to do. That is why we are absolutely committed to deliver on this.