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Part of Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day] — Tax Fairness – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 12th March 2013.

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Photo of Gordon Marsden Gordon Marsden Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills) 4:26 pm, 12th March 2013

I will indeed support what my hon. Friend has said, and would add that Willmott Dixon, among other companies, has had some interesting things to say about the role that social value can play in apprenticeships and procurement.

Addressing not just fall-out at post-24, but the ability to fall in at 16 to 18 and 19 to 24 should be a crucial part of any Government apprenticeships strategy. That means exposing them to the world of work and work experience at a much earlier age; giving space and dedicated funding in the curriculum for independent, face-to-face career guidance on apprenticeships; and making space for vital work-related learning skills, as the Federation of Small Businesses said in its publication, “The Apprenticeship Journey”.

The Prime Minister said yesterday in Buckinghamshire that he wanted to make apprenticeships a first-choice career move, so perhaps he could have a word with the Secretary of State for Education, who appropriately is in his place, but who has studiously ignored and devalued the arguments for vocational careers advice made by business groups and, indeed, by his own small and medium-sized enterprises apprenticeships adviser, Jason Holt, in his report last August.

No wonder businesses are dismayed. When the Government removed compulsory work-related learning from the key stage 4 curriculum in 2012, the FSB said:

“We remain deeply concerned that without it many schools may fail to teach these vital skills.”

The Prime Minister also said yesterday rather airily that he wanted Britain to be more like Germany in its attitude to apprenticeships, so perhaps he, too, should listen to Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who has come back from looking at Germany’s apprenticeships system and told FE Week this week that Germany’s “very effective” apprenticeships system is supported

“with a greater focus on vocational training” in schools “earlier on.” If we want the broadest spectrum of young people, including those not in education, employment or training, to be able to take up apprenticeships, we must give them a fair chance to get there. We and others have been urging for months the need for a proper pre-training route.