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Young People: High-quality Jobs

Volume 705: debated on Monday 6 December 2021

We are supporting young people to ensure that they have the skills for high-quality, secure and fulfilling employment through the plan for jobs package, which is £500 million of Department for Education funding. That includes, of course, a £3,000 cash boost for employers hiring new apprentices, which we are extending to the end of January.

Holy Cross College in my constituency provides a broad range of BTEC qualifications to its students, which has played a crucial part in widening access to higher education. While I welcome the introduction of T-levels, will my right hon. Friend confirm, following the recent announcement delaying proposed changes by a year, that BTECs will remain an option for young people seeking the necessary qualifications to secure a high-quality job and a bright future?

Mr Speaker, I hope to make T-levels as famous as A-levels and to give you a T-level pin like mine to wear on your lapel as well. I am happy to confirm that we will continue to fund some BTECs and other applied general qualifications in future where there is a clear need for skills and knowledge that A-levels and T-levels cannot provide and where they meet new quality standards.

The electric vehicle revolution will dominate the urban west midlands—or, some may say, the west midlands will dominate the electric vehicle revolution. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we must continue to align the post-16 education system with employer demand to ensure that we have the skills for that revolution and to develop our own home-grown talent?

I totally agree. That is why our reforms are focused on giving people the skills they need to get great jobs in sectors of the economy that need them and on putting employers at the heart of our skills system, and I hope of course that one day I will visit a gigafactory in my hon. Friend’s constituency.

Loughborough College already does an amazing job in providing high-quality skills to people of all ages in Loughborough. However, it is going one better by using Government funding to build a new T-levels centre. Will my right hon. Friend agree to visit the site to promote the great work being done to make ready for this new chapter for education in Loughborough?

I am delighted that Loughborough College has benefited from our T-levels capital fund to create fantastic new facilities. I would be happy to visit its new T-levels building and to see where it is now offering these world-class qualifications in digital, construction, health, education and childcare.

Lots of factors contribute to making a job high-quality and students should be given the tools to identify them for the future. On that basis, what steps are the Government taking to improve knowledge of the gender and ethnicity pay gaps in schools?

I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s question. We always strive to make sure that children have the highest level of information when they make these decisions, including careers advice, contact with businesses, and, soon, through the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, the ability to go much further in terms of experiencing what providers can offer.

The Secretary of State referred to apprenticeships in his original answer. We believe that they are a key way to help young people into high-quality jobs, but the introduction of the apprenticeship levy saw a 36% fall in the number of people doing apprenticeships, even before covid. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has described the apprenticeship levy as having “failed on every measure”, stating that it will continue to

“undermine investment in skills…without significant reform”.

Why does not the Government’s current skills Bill contain any measures to reform the levy or to boost apprenticeships?

I am grateful to the shadow Minister. Obviously, he was not listening to the Budget, because apprenticeship investment is going up to £2.7 billion a year by 2024. I remind him that, since we came into office, there have been 4.9 million apprenticeship starts. The focus is very much on quality, and I hope he would applaud the fact that 50% of all apprenticeships are among the under-25s and that level 2 and 3 apprenticeships are 50% of that, too.

Key subjects such as design and technology and information and communication technology have seen the proportion of students taking them up decline by 70% and 40% respectively, so surely the EBacc should be improved to ensure that education better prepares pupils for the world of work. Will my right hon. Friend emulate the work of the former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who made design and technology compulsory, and be aware of the 84,000 young people who have been unemployed for more than 12 months? We are behind many other OECD countries.

I am grateful to the Chairman of the Education Committee, who has been a champion for skills for most of his career. Computer science is very much part of the EBacc. Our overhaul of ICT, in which we have invested more than £80 million, has made a real difference. We continue to make sure that schools deliver not just the EBacc, but a much broader set of GCSEs. Design and technology is incredibly important to that, as I know this is to people such as Sir James Dyson.