Further Education

Part of Opposition Day — [10th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 6:08 pm on 18th November 2015.

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Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans 6:08 pm, 18th November 2015

Catherine West made her point very clearly. Effectively, she was saying, “What was that worth?” I am saying that, for many young people, getting to work on time, being presentable, using soft skills, and learning how to use a till, particularly if they are not mathematically literate, are valuable. I have met young people with disabilities who find those opportunities valuable. We must stop degrading those opportunities by saying that they are not worth the paper they are written on—Mr Lammy said that. We have to ensure that apprenticeships are worth the paper they are written on. It is a different matter if they are not. I am not aware of any apprenticeships in my constituency that are not worth the paper they are written on, and I am seeing young people benefiting from them.

I pay tribute to the Minister for encouraging people. I wish to remove any sneering about people who do not have high academic attainment and say, “If you are serving me in my local Greggs in St Albans, I value you. I value the fact that you are engaging with me properly and that you are someone who has taken the trouble to skill up.” I would not like to see that young person being put off from taking on any further education.

Let me mention Naomi. She was a young person who had not done well at school, who was not good at attending and who was not good in the world of work. She was picked up by Barclays, and she has become an absolute credit to it. It trained her up, got her work ready, got her studying qualifications alongside being trained up on the job. Now Naomi is a high achiever for Barclays. That first chance to get on the rung of an apprenticeship—our Government should be proud of what it is offering—is not just a throwaway that should not even be considered in the motion. It is something that is hugely valuable and sets many young people like Naomi on the right path into work and gets it into their head that there is something worth studying for. They realise that they can make something of their lives.

I value apprenticeships at all levels. For some young people, they click in a way that school did not. It is not always right to get everybody going into more education. Many can absorb a lot, learn a lot and change their lives by taking up some of those more modest offerings that the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green and others sneer about and refer to as not being worth the paper they are written on.