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Local Skills Needs: Education Providers and Businesses

Volume 742: debated on Monday 11 December 2023

11. What steps her Department is taking to help ensure that tertiary and technical education providers work with businesses to meet local skills needs. (900564)

16. What steps her Department is taking to help ensure that tertiary and technical education providers work with businesses to meet local skills needs. (900572)

We are transforming skills through our local skills improvement plans, backed by £165 million and supported by business, further education and higher education, and though a £300 million investment in institutes of technology, which are collaborations between business, higher education and further education to revolutionise our tertiary education offering.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that response. Stoke-on-Trent College has recently launched its new “Skills Ready, Future Ready” strategy and has been working with a number of employers locally to fill skills shortages, and it is very welcome to see the local skills improvement fund investment of around £3 million for Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, but given our industries locally and the skills shortages, we need to go further, so what will my right hon. Friend be doing to help fill some of those skills shortages—to support our industries to help people earn better wages and get skilled now?

My hon. Friend is a true champion of skills in Stoke-on-Trent and, as he mentioned, we strongly support the £3.2 million we are investing through the local skills improvement fund. That is underpinned by £3.8 billion of additional national investment and my hon. Friend will be pleased to know we will be opening the Stoke-on-Trent Staffordshire institute of technology in September 2024, with £13 million of capital funding as part of our revolution in tertiary education.

My constituency is at the beating heart of motorsport valley and it is critical for motorsport’s future success that we get skills training and education right for young people who want to go into that sector. The Grand Prix Trust is supporting that effort, having launched a £100,000 annual bursary scheme to help disadvantaged college students become part of the dynamic British motorsport sector, a partnership with the National College for Motorsport and Silverstone University Technical College. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming this fantastic initiative, and tell me what more he can do to help promote this important work?

My hon. Friend highlights the skills revolution we are having in this country, and the initiatives he has mentioned increase the collaboration between business and skills providers to help disadvantaged students in his constituency to climb the ladder of opportunity in a high-profile industry. I extend my thanks to Pat Symonds, chief technical officer of Formula 1, and Martin Brundle, chairman of the GPT trustees. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that the South Central Institute of Technology based in Milton Keynes is also exploring opportunities to work with motorsport in the area.

Plymouth is home to world-class skills in marine and nuclear engineering. Demand for apprentices in our city is growing, especially with the construction of new berths and docks for nuclear submarines at Devonport dockyard. Does the Minister agree that skills training and apprenticeships are just as important as new cranes and new docks in making these projects a success and supporting our armed forces, and will he meet me, a delegation of Plymouth businesses, our city council and City College Plymouth to look at how we can turbocharge creating more apprenticeships in our city to deliver these exciting and innovative projects?

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased that his constituency has received over 14,910 apprenticeship starts since 2010, which is really good news, but he is absolutely right that our skills offering is the key for future employment and jobs and to ensure people climb the ladder of opportunity. We have the apprenticeships, the bootcamps, the higher technical qualification and the free level 3 courses, but I will look at what he says and would be happy to meet him and other Plymouth MPs to work through the important issues he mentions.

Tertiary education providers are themselves businesses that seek to meet local skills needs, and the University of Exeter is no different. It hosts international students who contribute £486 million to Devon’s economy. People in Devon do not think of these students as immigrants, given how this funding helps boost skills among local people, so will the Minister talk to his counterparts in the Home Office about taking students out of the net migration figures?

As a former Exeter University student myself, I know how brilliant it is, and it also has a huge and incredibly successful programme of degree apprenticeships. I am very supportive of international students; they bring a lot of income to our country. Visa matters are always matters for the Home Office but I am sure there will be discussions about the issues raised by the hon. Gentleman.