Skills in the Recession
Opposition Day — [11th Allotted Day]
David Willetts (Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, Innovation, Universities and Skills; Havant, Conservative)
I beg to move,
That this House
regrets the Government's failure to deliver the skills training and education needed if the economy is to emerge stronger from the recession;
condemns the incompetent management of further education colleges' capital projects;
is concerned that the percentage of young people not in education, employment or training has risen significantly since the start of the decade;
notes the concerns of training providers that funding allocations for 2009-10 will not support current apprentices to the end of their training;
is disappointed that an estimated 1.4 million adult learning places have been lost since 2005;
and urges the Government to set out, in consultation with the Association of Colleges, clear criteria for the prioritisation of funding for college building projects, to provide support for more Masters degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects during the downturn, to fund learners over the age of 25 in level 3 STEM skills and to help apprentices at risk of losing their places to find new employers or new training places.
Our motion is about the economic crisis facing our country, but I sense that it is not the House's preoccupation at this very moment. However, the situation that we are in is perilous, because we face serious economic difficulties, which is the subject that we are debating, at a time when the country has clearly lost confidence in us as the House of Commons. We have to reflect on the seriousness of the constitutional challenges that we face, as well as the economic challenges. It is the combination of the two that makes our situation so serious.
The seriousness of the economic situation was brought home to us by last week's unemployment figures, which showed an increase of 250,000 in three months—the fastest quarterly increase on record, taking unemployment to the level it was when Labour came to office in 1997. The Opposition's fear is that young people in particular will be the victims of the recession, one estimate being that if, tragically, unemployment were to rise to 3 million, more than 1.25 million of those unemployed people would be aged under 25.