East Lancashire Training and Enterprise Council

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:16 pm on 16th January 1991.

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Photo of Mr Kenneth Hargreaves Mr Kenneth Hargreaves , Hyndburn 10:16 pm, 16th January 1991

I am grateful for the opportunity for the debate. I welcome the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Lee) and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike).

Over the past few years a great deal has been written and said on the subject of training. I welcome that, as I welcome the recognition by the Government that improvement in training is one of the keys to Britain's future prosperity. The Government's training programme is probably one of the most ambitious and successful that the country has ever seen. In deciding last year to spend £2·5 billion on training, two and a half times as much in real terms as in 1979, the Government were acting wisely. We must ensure that young people and the long-term unemployed can hold down jobs by equipping them with the modern skills which employers demand and need to have in a competitive world.

Training benefits employee and employer alike. The employee who has undergone training is more likely to get a job, to keep it and to earn a reasonable wage. The employer benefits from his work force's greater skills and efficiency which will allow him to be more competitive.

To be successful, any training scheme must have the enthusiastic support of employers. I believe that training and enterprise councils have that support. They have it because the councils are employer-led, making use of local people who have proved their success in industry and in commerce. Local people are the best to deal with training and enterprise because they know the needs of the area. I welcome the setting up of the 82 training and enterprise councils and wish to comment especially on East Lancashire TEC.

I am confident that ELTEC will succeed in ensuring high-quality training in east Lancashire. Having known Mark Price when he was managing director of a local subsidiary of GEC, I believe that we are fortunate to have him as the chief executive, as we are to have Peter Hornby as deputy chief executive and Tony Cann as ELTEC's enthusiastic chairman.

In addition to industrialists, ELTEC has on its board an ethnic director, a trade unionist, the leader of Lancashire county council, the local chief education officer and the manager of a local area hospital group. While half the management team is seconded from the Training Agency, the other half is, somewhat unusually, from areas outside the Training Agency. The board and staff at ELTEC are dedicated to their mission to improve the economy of east Lancashire. There used to be a saying that Britain's bread hangs by Lancashire's thread. Sadly, with the decline of Lancashire's textile industry, that is no longer true. Nevertheless, manufacturing is still of vital importance to the economy of not only east Lancashire but the United Kingdom as a whole.

ELTEC is the TEC in which the proportion of the work force in manufacturing is highest—some 49 per cent. in Hyndburn compared with 24 per cent. in the United Kingdom as a whole. Not surprisingly, therefore, I regard East Lancashire TEC as the most important one. Its success or failure is of vital importance to the local community and the country.

Mark Price and his team are well equipped to ensure that people go on training courses which are appropriate to their needs and the needs of potential employers, thus ensuring that the training provided leads directly to employment. They are well qualified to ensure that the many small and growing businesses that we have in east Lancashire receive the necessary support and advice to enable them to prosper. As TECs are employer-led, they are well qualified to ensure that there is an increased commitment to training by local employers. So often in the past, that commitment was not there totally, and when necessary cost-cutting exercises had to be undertaken, training always suffered.

In a recession such as we are experiencing it is not easy to persuade companies to invest in people, not because they do not believe that it is right to do so, but because they face serious short-term financial difficulties. By identifying and promoting the benefits of training, to not only the local community and individuals but local companies and their long-term needs, ELTEC seeks to change previous attitudes towards training and raise the priority of investment in skills.

ELTEC has arranged a major conference on 22 January to promote the training ethic in east Lancashire, and provide company membership of ELTEC. Some 500 people are expected to attend. The theme of the conference will be "training is the future". It certainly is the future for my constituency and for east Lancashire if we are to prevent the decline of the area and persuade our young people to stay there, work there and eventually invest there and not, as so many have done, to migrate to the south-east.

Young people need to have ready access to good information about local education and training opportunities, the qualifications to which they lead, and the educational, training and employment possibilities that lie beyond. They need good counselling and a clear statement of their entitlement to future education and training.

In Hyndburn there are four providers of youth training. Business Support Unit Ltd. is ELTEC's third largest YT provider and currently offers training to 398 young people. North Lancs Training Group is one of the few group training schemes operating in the furniture and timber industries. The scheme caters for approximately 180 young people at present, across a range of craft occupations which include cabinet-making, carpentry, joinery and wood machinery. Lucas Body Systems, Rists, part of the Lucas group, has set up a purposely equipped training centre near its Accrington works, where 42 young people are currently undergoing training in a variety of production and assembly skills, while Hyndburn Community Services Project, affiliated to the excellent Accrington and Rossendale college, is a facility of which the primary function is the development of young people with special needs. It seeks to prepare its 71 young people with the skills and motivation to succeed in open employment. Those four schemes account for £1·17 million of ELTEC's YT budget and all four do excellent work.

In addition to those schemes, others in east Lancashire offer specialist training, such as Training 2000 which is the major provider of engineering craft and technician training, while the construction industry training board, via the local college, offers construction craft training in a variety of occupations.

We know what we have to do to ensure a bright future for east Lancashire. By setting up the TECs the Government have increased the opportunity to do it. ELTEC has already demonstrated that it is equal to the task.