Over the past 10 years, unemployment has been cut by almost half and employment is up by 16,000 in Warrington. For the future, continuing growth, stability and near-record employment mean that we remain fully committed to full employment opportunities for all those in Warrington and across the UK.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Now that we have moved from serious unemployment to full employment in Warrington, our next challenge is to produce more highly skilled, well paid jobs, particularly through development of the Omega project. Can my hon. Friend assure me that as that comes on stream we will continue the investment in training and further education that will ensure that people from the deprived areas of my constituency are able to take advantage of those jobs and improve their skills and prospects in the future?
I can indeed, and I welcome the fact that phase 1 of the Omega project was given planning go-ahead just before Christmas. As a member of the Select Committee on Education and Skills, my hon. Friend knows that the huge investment over the past 10 years means that skills in the UK are improving—more than 1.4 million people have improved their basic skills and levels of qualification in the work force are increasing. However, she knows, too, that international challenges and competition and demand from employers mean that for the future our task will be even greater. I assure her that we accept the scale of the challenge set out by the Leitch report and Lord Leitch's approach for tackling it, and we are working on ways to implement his recommendations.
Are not the Government concerned that the recent childhood well-being report showed that 30 per cent. of young people—presumably in Warrington, as elsewhere—do not aspire to anything other than low-skilled jobs? Bearing in mind the fact that over the next few decades the UK economy is unlikely to generate as many low-skilled jobs as at present, is not the Financial Secretary concerned about the impact that that is likely to have on the economy in Warrington and elsewhere, including on the well-being of those young people as adults?
I am not sure whether the hon. Lady missed the question about the childhood well-being report that was answered by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary a moment ago. However, she is right to note the strong requirement for a more skilled work force in the future. She is right, too—although she did not quite say this—that 70 per cent. of the work force in 2020 will already have left full-time education. She is also right that we need to do yet more for young people who are looking for vocational options, in particular for modern apprenticeships. The fact that the number of those on apprenticeships has almost trebled over the past 10 years is a good base on which to build and I hope she welcomes that.