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Armed Forces Apprenticeships

Volume 709: debated on Monday 21 February 2022

16. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Education on increasing apprenticeships in the armed forces. (905600)

We are proud that the armed forces are one of Britain’s biggest providers of apprenticeships. Since 2014, we have enrolled more than 96,000 apprentices, and there are around 21,000 apprentices at any time. I was honoured recently to meet apprentices from across all three services who are doing qualifications from level 2 all the way to degree courses.

I want to thank the Secretary of State and his team for the dignity that they have shown in the recent affairs with Ukraine and Russia.

The Ministry of Defence is doing a huge amount of work with apprenticeships, which other Departments should follow. Harlow has a remarkable cadet programme in the Navy, RAF and Army. Will the Minister look at whether cadets who would like to stay on in the armed forces can then progress into a military apprenticeship, and will he come and visit the remarkable cadet scheme in my constituency?

Of course all young people should be aware of the amazing opportunities for apprenticeships and careers in the armed forces. I would be honoured to visit my right hon. Friend’s constituency to see that scheme at first hand. The bottom line is that military service gives people skills for life.

Several years ago, a young man came to see me. He was about to leave school and he was as keen as mustard to join the armed forces. However, he had been diagnosed as being on the spectrum, and although I wrote to the then Defence Minister, he fell at the first hurdle and could not join and have the career that he wished for. Is the possibility of recruiting people who are on the spectrum being considered? It could be fantastically useful in terms of the cyber threat that we clearly face.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We are actively considering recruiting people with neurodiversity, because of their capacity for working in the cyber sphere. I am pleased that he has raised this issue, and I can confirm that we are actively looking at it.