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Employment: Apprenticeships

Volume 698: debated on Monday 28 January 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (John Denham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today laying before the House a Command Paper—Ready to Work, Skilled for Work: Unlocking Britain’s Talent. Copies will be made available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office. The Command Paper sets out how the Government intend to help employers to recruit job-ready individuals and raise the skills base of their staff. It outlines a number of key measures:

Expansion and improvement of the apprenticeship programme in England

The Government want to build on the success of the current apprenticeship programme and have undertaken a review of apprenticeships in England. This review carried out jointly with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, is being published alongside the Command Paper today.

The report, World Class Apprenticeships: Unlocking Talent, Building Skills for All, sets out a wide range of steps that will improve apprenticeships for the future and ensure that an apprenticeship place is available for all qualified young people by 2013 and as part of raising the participation age in learning to age 18. There is a particular focus on how we can work with employers, through a new dedicated national apprenticeships service, to expand the opportunities to young people and adults. Key measures from the review are:

we want apprenticeships to be a mainstream option for 16 to 18 year-olds, and will ensure that by 2013 every suitably qualified young person who wants to take up an apprenticeship place will be able to do so;

as we grow a high quality programme on this scale, taking up an apprenticeship may become attractive to even more young people. We will maintain our commitment to meeting the demand from suitably qualified young people, so that if more come forward we will work with employers to expand the programme further. On this basis, we anticipate that around one in five of all young people will be undertaking an apprenticeship within the next decade, so that an apprenticeship place will be a mainstream post-16 option;

a focused delivery system, including a separately branded, national apprenticeships service with end-to-end accountability for the apprenticeships programme, a dedicated field force to support employers and learners, and appointment of a director of the service to lead and champion at the most senior level;

strengthening the apprenticeship experience, by improving the apprenticeships “blueprint” to set out the rights and responsibilities of employer and apprentice and include a signed “apprenticeship agreement”;

action to boost the supply of apprenticeship opportunities, through a more flexible and responsive model for apprenticeship frameworks, incentives payments to targeted businesses, an apprenticeships “credit” delivered via skills accounts, and improving public sector supply of apprenticeship places;

a drive to change the culture around the value of apprenticeships by providing a national “matching service”, and high profile events celebrating the achievement of apprentices; and

more to improve equality of opportunity and access, through positive action to encourage young women and young men to consider apprenticeships traditionally limited to one gender and ensure that contractual wage regulations set by the LSC are fully enforced.

The review will be followed by the publication of draft legislation later this year. I am placing a copy of the apprenticeships review report in the Library.

Steps to make it easier for employers to recruit and train staff

The UK has enjoyed record levels of employment, with 2.9 million more people in work since 1997. We will build on this to ensure that all people can share in this opportunity to work. Today, I have set out the support we can offer employers to recruit job-ready individuals, through local employment partnerships. Employers are offered a range of support from Jobcentre Plus designed to increase the effectiveness of their recruitment processes. In return we ask them to offer people who are often overlooked in the labour market a fair chance at a job. This can include wider use of work trials to enable individuals to demonstrate their suitability for a job and tailored pre-recruitment training to give people the skills employers need. Local employment partnerships represent an active partnership approach, enabling employers to find the right person for the job that is available when needed.

“Train to Gain” is the Government’s flagship service to enable employers to access quality assured, impartial advice from skills brokers with expertise in their sector to help identify skills needs at all levels and source training solutions that meet those needs. Government funding will sit alongside the employer’s own financial contribution and include: fully funded literacy, numeracy, and first full level 2 qualification training for employees who need them; fully funded second full level 2 qualification training for new employees recruited from priority unemployed groups by employers signed up to local employment partnerships; and a contribution to help meet the costs of releasing employees to undertake agreed training for employers with fewer than 50 employees.

Accreditation of employer qualifications. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is also announcing today the names of the first three companies that have been recognised to award their own qualifications in the national framework as part of the pilot announced in “World Class Skills” (Cm 7181). They are Flybe; McDonald's and Network Rail. In addition, to date 24 companies have had their training accredited in partnership with awarding bodies and more are on the way. This means that some of the training undertaken by the employees in these companies is now a nationally recognised qualification benefiting the staff, their employers and the country as a whole. It is another clear example of businesses being increasingly committing to improving the skills of their staff.

The Government will continue to support employers, providing the right framework for them and their employees to succeed. Continuing this partnership approach will enable us to unlock our nation’s potential and secure a prosperous future for all.