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I read the recommendation of the hon. Gentleman’s Committee on that, and in the current situation I think it is probably the best option. I await the Government’s response to it with interest.
Work experience is another topic that has been raised. Removing the obligation on schools to have their students involved in work experience removes from those students an experience that potentially will enthuse them to pursue an apprenticeship. In my area, many of the apprentices in the foundries went there as a result of work experience they undertook. Removing this obligation undermines the overall thrust of the policy, which is to get young people into vocational education.
David Simpson raised the issue of business involvement. That is another crucial element in developing a strategy that works. I believe that, first, there must be a vocational qualification, and the BTEC, as outlined by my hon. Friend Mr Marsden, should provide that. I support the Government’s employer ownership scheme as I believe that our vocational qualifications must be determined, monitored and assessed by business, in conjunction with the education service. I also believe more group training associations and apprenticeship training associations should be developed so we can reach the smaller small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the hardest to reach and which otherwise would be unable to provide the resources for apprenticeship training.
I am not going to repeat my hon. Friend’s arguments in support of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee recommendations, but I will emphasise that my local authority of Sandwell is pioneering in this area, and has so far obtained 250 apprentices, is playing a brokering role for students with local businesses, and has taken 300 people off the unemployment register by giving them work experience in a pre-apprenticeship scheme.
If local government can do this, why cannot the Government? The half-hearted response of the Government is to be lamented, and I hope we will get something more positive in future.