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Youth Training Scheme: New Technologies

Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 14 February 1984

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2.52 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the degree of emphasis on new technologies in the training available under the youth training scheme.

My Lords, all youth training scheme programmes are required to include an introduction to computer literacy and information technology.

My Lords, while I am delighted to hear that Answer, can my noble friend say how much young people are taking this up and making a possible career for themselves? One is so often told that one cannot get young people trained on lines which would be useful to them in their future careers.

My Lords, the programme is very satisfactory. I can tell my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood that the number of technology centres established is increasing. We hope to increase the number ultimately to 175. The centres are very well subscribed. There is no scarcity of sponsorship, and the young people who attend the centres are having very great success, with a high percentage of them finding permanent employment as a result. I may also say that even at the lesser centres—if I may describe them in that way—there is an obligation to include an element of technological instruction.

My Lords, taking into account the Government's recently published White Paper on youth training, can the noble Lord state, when the centralisation proposed in the White Paper takes place, who will have the final say in the dimension and variety of this type of training course? Will it be the commission itself or will it be the Minister?

My Lords, that is not directly related to the Question and I cannot give the noble Lord an answer at this time. I shall however undertake to make myself fully conversant with that point and will write to the noble Lord in due course.

My Lords, does the noble Lord the Minister not agree that the youth training scheme is not, or should not be, only about the acquisition of skills and technologies relating to the competence to get jobs and work? Should it not include the development of other qualities which have to do with responsible citizenship? Does the noble Lord not agree that that aspect is not sufficiently represented in the scheme at present, and do the Government have it in mind to look at this again after a period of trial?

My Lords, the point which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, makes is a valid one. At the present time, youth training schemes cover a fairly wide range but we are never satisfied that they are perfect. The Government are always prepared to review the syllabus so far as they are concerned.

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether the figure of 175 centres covers Scotland, England and Wales? Secondly, how many of the Mode B schemes have been closed down? I understand that the Manpower Services Commission is closing down a number of those schemes.

My Lords, I can confirm to my noble friend that the figure of 175 centres which I gave is a United Kingdom figure. I can confirm also that some 6,000 young people will be training in those technology centres in 1984. The Government are committed to opening at least 150 centres, and 122 have so far been established, with a further 22 centres at an advanced stage of development. But the ultimate figure at which we are aiming is 175 centres.

My Lords, does the Minister not agree that the purpose of the youth training scheme was to get its target this year and that the MSC is committed to raising quality as its top priority next year? The very points which have been made will surely be taken up in the commission's pursuit of quality.

My Lords, I agree entirely with what the noble Baroness has said; that is a fact.

My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether there is any monitoring of the take-up of these schemes at the technology centres as far as the ethnic minorities are concerned? If not, how will the Government measure the degree of help which is being given to young people from the ethnic minorities by the technology schemes?

My Lords, the schemes are open to everybody. It is the Government's hope that individuals from those groups will participate.

My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that those youngsters who are on community-based training schemes, which cater in the main for those youngsters who are not so well endowed as others, will also be able to benefit from the new technology schemes? Many of them are youngsters who really need help with literacy.

My Lords, so far as training workshops are concerned, about 40 per cent. of the existing network of 314 training workshops have some microcomputer training facilities. The MSC, with some financial assistance from the Department of Trade and Industry, is planning to equip workshops with a range of information technology facilities in the near future.

My Lords, has not the introduction of the youth training scheme brought about an end to the scheme under which 2,000 craft and technician trainees were previously funded directly by the Manpower Services Commission? Can the noble Lord the Minister assure the House that under the new arrangements there will be no reduction in the number of young people undergoing effective training to become engineers, craftsment or technicians?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord the Minister for his answer to my first question, but will he give an undertaking that the type of schemes we are now discussing will not be funded at the expense of the more mundane schemes? Some schemes which employ a considerable number of youths at present are unfortunately being closed down at this moment because of the withdrawal of Government support.

My Lords, I believe I made it clear earlier that the technology centres are to a large extent sponsored, and there is no scarcity of sponsorship. Industry is very anxious to play its full part in the furtherance of the excellence of those centres, and there seems no reason why any of the lesser schemes should suffer in any way.