I can report that the latest figures show that the number of national and Scottish vocational qualifications awarded continues to rise, up 36 per cent. since 1997. Our wider strategy for vocational training was set out in "World Class Skills", the Command Paper published last week.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that reasonable and helpful reply. Does he not accept, however, that once the basics of education—reading, writing, numeracy, expression and comprehension—have been fully grasped by young people, it would be better to introduce vocational training much earlier in education? That would give them a real motivation and a real sense of what they might want to do when they go into the world of work.
The hon. Gentleman has had a long interest in such issues, particularly in relation to the manufacturing industry, and he makes an important point. However, as he will have heard in the earlier question session, that is precisely why the new diploma for engineering was unveiled this week and why another four diplomas will be published in the next couple of weeks. We want the option of taking a diploma, starting at the age of 14, to be seen as a valid route for young people. I do not want us to lose sight of the importance of apprenticeships, either. The noble Lord Leitch set a target for the United Kingdom of 500,000 people in apprenticeships by 2020. Apprenticeships should also be seen as a relevant, valid and valued choice for young people.