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Apprenticeships: Dyslexia

Volume 730: debated on Thursday 6 October 2011


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made in making apprenticeships available to those with dyslexia.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, and draw attention to my declaration in the register of interests.

My Lords, the Government recognise that there are issues with delivery that can make it difficult for people with dyslexia to get the English qualifications that apprenticeships require. We want to ensure that all learning providers offer the right provision and support, and are challenging these providers’ representatives to see what more their members can do to make this work. I know that assessment arrangements for key skills are a particular concern to my noble friend Lord Addington and I assure him that this qualification will be phased out of the apprenticeship by the autumn of next year.

I thank my noble friend for that Answer. I am sorry to have to return to this subject yet again. I hope the Government can give us an assurance that they are looking at finding a way through this and give us some sort of timescale. With that in mind, could the Government please tell us whether any precedent that is set in other parts of the education department is appropriate to be taken as a whole to this area? If you can get through the A-level system and to university, surely you should be allowed to get through the apprenticeship system.

My noble friend rightly repeats a worry and a question that he has over the fact that using the key skills system for the apprenticeships is extremely difficult. We are looking, as he knows, at how we can improve access. There is no doubt that to encourage employers to take as many apprentices as possible is good for our country and we want to use all the talents that we have. That means harnessing able and disabled students wherever possible.

My Lords, would the noble Baroness consider the fact that when I was an apprentice those who were most helpful to the apprentices in the factory were normally the journeymen over the age of 50 who had more patience and tended to mentor the young people, not only in their trade but in their behaviour and other matters? A large number of men and women are unemployed and retired and could be used for mentoring apprentices. Could this be considered by the Government? By the way, I welcome the Government’s action in encouraging apprenticeships.

I agree with the noble Lord. My father was an apprentice and he, too, became a journeyman, which is a wonderful thing. Perhaps we can find a use in that way. I will take this back and discuss it, and will come back to the noble Lord.

Can the Minister guarantee that, given the importance of assisting all disabled people, especially the young, and the record levels of youth unemployment, there is sufficient budget to achieve this objective? If the Government have found a spare £250 million to spend on weekly bin collections, would it not have been better spent on encouraging more than the current 4 per cent of employers to provide apprenticeships?

I think the noble Lord knows that we are taking forward the work that he started and I hope that he is pleased with the way we are doing that. We are allowing the money that is needed to do this work, which is so important to us. There is no question that the bins come first.