National Skills Strategy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:58 pm on 15th May 2003.

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Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 5:58 pm, 15th May 2003

In this instance, I think the hon. Gentleman has made an interesting and important point. Having, to an extent, experienced such treatment myself, I think it regrettable that young people should be forced to make choices affecting their long-term careers—although they are presented as academic choices—at an exceptionally early age. Whatever emerges from the strategy, it could be said that the test the Minister is setting up for it is the degree of flexibility it will involve, and the extent to which policy involving areas of weakness can be embellished or reinforced.

Conservative Members believe that the Government's pursuit of a 50 per cent. target for higher education—which has, as far as I know, no objective basis or justification—has distorted their efforts. It does not match the actual requirements of the economy, it will not bring about the right skills mix, and it is very derogatory of the 50 per cent. of young people to whom the target does not apply. We genuinely hope that as many as possible will participate in appropriate education and training after reaching the age of 16. Of course, we also hope that they will proceed to higher education in due course if they show that they can do it.