Education, Training and Skills
Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day]
John Hayes (- Shadow Minister (Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education), Universities and Skills; South Holland and The Deepings, Conservative)
That is a different subject for a different day. I do agree with the hon. Gentleman about the need to boost apprenticeships; I know that he and the hon. Member for Barnsley, East and Mexborough are advocates of the apprenticeship system. They will know that in 2007 a report on apprenticeships by the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs concluded that many who would benefit from an apprenticeship were not doing so, mainly because of the severe shortage of places. Again, it is time that Ministers came clean.
We might have expected an admission of falling apprenticeship numbers. In the fourth quarter of last year, we saw a fall in the number of apprenticeship starts. We did not hear about that when the Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property spoke. The figures are worse than has been suggested. The fact is that all of the increase in the number of apprenticeships over the past decade has been a result of converting other forms of training into apprenticeships. That is precisely what the Lords Economic Affairs Committee's report said in 2007.
Ministers like to count the number of apprentices in terms of apprenticeship starts, so when the Minister for Further Education, Skills, Apprenticeships and Consumer Affairs sums up, will he confirm that at the beginning of the decade there were 84,500 advanced apprenticeship starts at level 3, and that by the end of the decade that number had fallen to less than 80,000? The number of level 3 apprenticeship starts-that is the level at which all apprenticeships were once defined, and below which a position would not be regarded as an apprenticeship in other countries-