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Part of Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day] — Tax Fairness – in the House of Commons at 5:13 pm on 12th March 2013.

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Photo of Adrian Bailey Adrian Bailey Chair, Business, Innovation and Skills Committee 5:13 pm, 12th March 2013

I will try to summarise my 11-month Business, Innovation and Skills Committee report and its recommendations within that time frame. I welcome this debate in national apprenticeship week. Notwithstanding the political differences that we may have between the parties, it is important that we take the opportunity to demonstrate and recommend to young people the advantages that come from an apprenticeship.

Recent figures show that it is anticipated that there will be about £3.4 billion worth of additional growth per year in 2022 if we adopt a certain target for apprenticeships. Similarly, apprentices can expect to earn about £150,000 extra during a lifetime. Those are key figures that the House should be highlighting in order to underpin the Government’s drive to get more apprentices.

However, the Government have to recognise that there is also a perception problem. Fewer than one in five 16 to 19-year-olds think that apprenticeships offer the best career option for them, and the great majority still think that GCSEs and university do. Fewer than one in 10 parents support apprenticeships. They still prefer the higher education route and still think of apprentices as being blue collar workers, whereas in fact the great majority are white collar workers.

Notwithstanding the obvious economic benefit and the drive and support from all parties in the Chamber, there is obviously a problem that has to be addressed in fulfilling the potential that is offered by this career route. With great respect to the Minister, I do not think that he did justice to some of the recommendations made by the Opposition and the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee to achieve that. I stress that the Select Committee has a Government majority and all its recommendations were passed unanimously.

The solution lies, first, in not just trying to drive up the number of apprenticeships, but in looking at our education system. The Prime Minister talked yesterday about an alternative career option. If we are to get young people to take it up, we must have some sort of parity of esteem between higher education and the apprenticeship route. The most depressing thing that the Committee heard was when an apprentice in Sheffield told us that he had the option to go to university, but when he told his school he wanted to take an apprenticeship, it ignored him and did not even invite him to its awards ceremony. That is symptomatic of a culture within our schools and education system that must be addressed if we are to change.