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I can join Mr Marsden in making one point: we are all in the Chamber today to celebrate apprenticeships on the second day of national apprenticeship week. I was privileged this morning to meet Jenny Westworth, the apprentice of the year, who is an aeronautical engineer at BAE Systems near Preston.
Apprenticeships offer a huge amount. They work for the economy, they work for employers and they work for apprentices. In short, apprenticeships deliver. For the economy, apprenticeships improve productivity. For employers, apprenticeships increase morale and retention, not to mention the skills that employers need. They also work for the apprentices themselves and evidence published by the Centre for Economic and Business Research shows that the average higher apprentice increases his or her lifetime earnings by about £150,000, about as much as if he or she had gone to university.
Apprenticeships deliver and that is why over the past two years the number of apprentices starting has increased so sharply. In 2010, the coalition promised 50,000 more apprentices every year. I confirm to the House today that we have already not only delivered on that promise but exceeded it. We have all but doubled the number of apprentices starting each year, with more than 1 million starts under this Government.