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I had the enormous pleasure of serving under my hon. Friend when he was the Chair of the Children, Schools and Families Committee, and he has probably taught me as much as anyone in this House on this subject. He is absolutely right and he hits the nail on the head: a step-change in the number of apprenticeships is central. It is the focus of our motion.
We resurrected that historic badge of excellence, but this is not a matter for party politics. When Mr Hayes was the Minister with responsibility for apprenticeships, he spoke movingly about what he had learned about the value of the skills of hand and eye from his father. I, too, saw those skills through the working life of my father as an engineer. When he was apprenticed at the age of 14 to the engineering company Crossley Brothers in Manchester just before the second world war, my grandfather told him, “Now Crossleys has taken you on, you will have a job for life.”
Today’s apprentices often face very different challenges and prospects, because many young people can expect to go through half a dozen job or career changes in their lifetime, some probably not even thought of when they start their apprenticeship. That means it is critical to get the mix of bespoke and portable skills right at the apprenticeship stage; and that the range, content and quality remain relevant to the businesses and local economies in which they are embedded. These are challenging issues that demand a co-ordinated and hands-on approach from government, as well as from businesses and educators.