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Armed Forces: Skills for the Future

Volume 741: debated on Monday 20 November 2023

12. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that the armed forces have the skills required for the future. (900160)

20. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that the armed forces have the skills required for the future. (900170)

In June 2023, the Ministry of Defence published the Haythornthwaite review of armed forces incentivisation. Multiple teams are being stood up across Defence to implement all 67 recommendations, working to establish a reward and incentivisation architecture that will attract and retain skills. Meanwhile, I am delighted to say that the Army has just been named the UK’s No. 1 employer of apprentices for the third consecutive year.

I am aware that the MOD is the biggest single employer of apprentices, with more than 15,000 soldiers currently on the programme, and I have seen the excellent training and development that takes place at the Army Foundation College, which, as my right hon. Friend knows, is located in Harrogate. Does he agree that the apprenticeship scheme is not only bringing in future talent, but ensuring that those individuals have the skills for the remainder of their lives?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I enjoyed my relatively recent visit to Harrogate. More than 95% of all non-commissioned recruits across the armed forces are offered apprenticeships mapped to their training. As he rightly says, that benefits not only Defence but the individual and the wider economy.

Given that the defence of our United Kingdom is reserved and education and skills are devolved, what discussions is my right hon. Friend having with the devolved Administrations to ensure that the skills needed by our British armed forces are being developed across our whole United Kingdom?

The Ministry of Defence actively engages with the devolved Administrations to align education, skills and development, and will continue to do so, using the UK-wide pan-Defence skills framework, which ensures that the armed forces skills requirements are met across the country and contribute to the wider economy that we share.

I thank the Minister for that response. Beyond the Battlefield, an independent charity in my constituency, does incredible work with veterans who are homeless, giving them accommodation and some skills. I have extended an invitation to the Minister to come to Northern Ireland to visit Beyond the Battlefield, so I will extend that again. I think he will be impressed—I know I am—and he will see that what we do in Northern Ireland can be done elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

It is always a joy to visit Strangford—one of the most beautiful places in these islands, if I may say so. I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s invitation; I have it at the front of my mind and when I am in Northern Ireland I will ensure that I visit.